How I Met Diane

I always said during my 38 years being married to Diane Dowling life would have been boring without her. She brought fun to all we did.

We met in Madrid. I was living there with my buddy Matt, and Diane was travelling through Europe with a EurailPass with her friend Mary Beth.

Matt and I went to the American Express off Piazza del Sol every day to get mail. One morning we had just gone there when a woman behind us said in English. “You’re going to lose your passport.” It had slidden up in his hip pocket.

That’s all we needed. When you’re in a foreign land and someone addresses you in English, you stop and talk.

Diane, the other woman, wanted to know if there was a Post Office nearby.

“Right there,” I said, pointing to a large building across the square. “We’ll take you there.”

Matt and I had recently met some US Army guys. We were going to their base for a swim that afternoon.

Would Diane and Mary Beth like to come along? They thought that to be a good plan and said yes right away.

“Oh boy,” I thought. “They like us.”

But as it turned out, they had been travelling on the train for three days and had not showered. The thought of cleaning up on a US Army base with showers sounded pretty good.
Diane and I went to a concert in Madrid one night. After, we strolled to the Parliament Building and sat on the steps.

We were kissing. A guard came to us quickly and said we could not do that out there in the open.

“La bas,” he said with a wink, pointing to a park bench across the street.

Our favourite place in Madrid was a cool basement bar where a puppy named El Cordobes ran around our feet. That’s where we decided to get married and get a dog.

Years later we had two bearded Collies named Blaze and Shadow.

El Cordobes was at that time a popular bullfighter, daring beyond belief and reckless. People loved him.

One Sunday afternoon Diane was due to catch a train going north. We sat in the shady section of the arena watching El Cordobes dare the bull.

Time wore on. Both of us knew it was getting late, but both of us said nothing.

Finally it was too late.

“You have missed your train,” I said, feigning surprise.

“I know,” Diane said. We were in love. Now we could have another day.

I had been in Europe long enough and was ready for Africa. I hitch-hiked south to the Rock of Gibraltar, crossed the strait on a ferry to Morocco, went to Algeria and back to Casablanca, took a steamer to Dakar, went inland across Senegal to Togo and Dahomey, and ended up in Nigeria, my destination.

When I arrived in the middle of the night in the middle of the jungle at Nigerian Youth Camp, Bobby was waiting up for me.

“There’s mail for you,” he said. Diane had written 25 letters. I put them in chronological order and read them all. It was dawn when I finished.

Bobby came to my cabin. “You have to come for breakfast. Everyone wants to meet you,” he said.

“I’m tired and want to sleep,” I said.

“You can sleep later,” he said.

Diane and I got married in St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church in New York City in 1966.

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