January 22, 2013

Two Inauguration Weekends, Two wedding Celebrations -- 56 Years Apart! -- #2 - 1957

SATURDAY, 1/19/1956
Diana LeBlanc and John Schappi

I'll explain the reason for this introductory video a little later.

We've heard a lot of talk from pundits this past weekend about the relative unimportance of the second inauguration of a two-term president. That may well be true from the perspective of American history.

But for me, the second inauguration of President Eisenhower included the most important day in my life -- Saturday, January 19, 1957.

In 1957, Diana LeBlanc and John Schappi were editors on different publication staffs at the then 100% employee-owned Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA). That employee ownership continued until last year when BNA became Bloomberg BNA.

We'd been dating for over a year but had tried to keep our relationship from becoming scuttlebutt at BNA.  Both of us were active in the Newspaper Guild which represented BNA's editorial employees.

Just as with the Obama inauguration this year, the January 20 date for Eisenhower's second inauguration fell on Sunday, so the "official" swearing in of the president on Sunday was followed by the public ceremony on Monday. The Newspaper Guild had proposed that BNA make that day a holiday for the employees, but management rejected the proposal.

Coincidentally, Diana and I had decided to get married on Saturday, January 19 and take a brief honeymoon trip to New York City. We'd take Monday off and return to work on Tuesday. We still wanted to keep our plans secret from our  BNA colleagues, but we decided to tell both of our managing editors why we were requesting Monday off. We asked them not to share our secret with others.

One of them must have told BNA's executive editor John Stewart. On Friday, we each got a "confidential" interoffice envelope with a message from John that I can still quote verbatim:
The BNA grapevine, which is more reliable than most, has it that the two of you are about to be married. This is one merger in the labor movement that has the wholehearted approval of BNA's management.
The Wedding Celebration
Ours was much more low key than the Nepali celebration last weekend. We were married in a brief late morning ceremony at All Soul's Unitarian Church in Washington. Only three close friends attended: Diana's friends Bob and Dotty Tull, and my roommate Marty Convisser. I remain in touch with the Tulls; Marty and I have lunch often and play bridge about once a month.

The wedding ceremony was followed by a many-martini lunch at a fancy restaurant. Then our friends poured us onto the Amtrak train to NYC. We had a few more drinks on the train.

When we arrived at our hotel, we received an envelope containing a wedding gift from my former roommate Dave Richmann: two tickets to the hit Broadway musical, Leonard Bernstein's Candide.  I looked at the ticket with my bleary eyes and told Diana we had to head to the theater immediately since the show started at 7:30. Diana said "shows never start at 7:30." Trying to show her who was in charge at the start of our marriage, I insisted that we hail a cab and head for the theater.

We arrived to an empty lobby. I looked again at the tickets. The price was $7.30! (Try getting tickets to a Broadway show these days for that price!)

We had a cup of coffee while waiting for the usual 8pm curtain, but the caffeine didn't sober us up much. Early during the show, we decided that we didn't like it and made our thoughts known in comments not exchanged in whispers. We were asked to leave.

Yes, ours was a "different" wedding celebration. Fortunately, no one was taping it on an i-Phone.

A Few Reflections
This was the most important day in my life. Over the years, I've been blessed with many close, loving relationships -- most platonic, some not. I've yet to meet anyone with whom I was as fully compatible as I was with Diana. Unfortunately among the many things we had in common was the disease of alcoholism and a sexual attraction to males.

But for the first five years or so, we had a strong, happy, healthy marriage. Fortunately, these were the formative years for our son Todd and daughter Ann. I like to think this time helped them develop into the terrific adults they are today. Though it may sound self-serving now, I believe that learning they could survive the subsequent ten years of turmoil made them stronger adults.

I need to remember my "less is more" mantra and stop here on the family history.

Diana died of throat cancer on May 23, 1978. She had been sober for several years before her death. I wish Todd and Ann could have had more time to experience their sober mother, and to more fully understand her deep love for them.. I regret she couldn't be here now to see how much our kids share her intelligence, humor, compassion, and feistiness. I'm sorry she's missing the joy of watching the growth and development of our wonderful grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I'm glad I was reconciled with Diana at the end and that I could visit her most every day during her extended hospitalizations. But looking back, I wish I hadn't steered those conversations to the safe topics of news, weather, and politics. We both would have benefited from sharing thoughts about the more meaningful issues of life and death and love.

Marrying Diana LeBlanc on inauguration weekend 56 years ago was the most important event in my life.


Lachhita said...

This is what my wonderful husband had to say about your writing:

"I love his writing! It's very expressive, grasping and yet very simple. I've only read (i) so far, and I like it a lot! Thanks for sharing. (ii) is even better!
It's a small world indeed, and coincidences are aplenty"

I personally could write paragraphs on how wonderful your blog is (I have read about 4-5 posting so far and plan to read more), but since my husband has this amazing quality of being concise, I will just stick with his comments and end at - I couldn't agree more! :)

John said...

Thanks Lachhita --- You know here in the U.S. it's not necessary and even counter-culture for a wife to be so nicely differential to her husband. :-) Thanks again for letting me be part of the terrific celebration. My only regret was that my aging body forced me to head home to bed just as the festivities were crescendo-ing and dancers were being thrown in the air.