Sunday's Maui News included a charming ad in the A Section, a 5-inch-square photo of a well-groomed gentleman on bended knee with the message, "Patak will you marry me?" in big bold letters. Already teary-eyed from reading the front-page tribute to Maui's fallen hero, Kraig Vickers, I felt a tug at my heart when I saw the earnest, hopeful smile of Patak's suitor, ring case in hand. Only now the tears were the "aw, shucks" kind, shed with a chuckle.
I thought that only happened in romance novels and old movies, men getting down on one knee to propose marriage. It certainly never happened to me, and I've been married three times. Not that I'm complaining. Sentimental fool that I am, I will find romance anywhere, even in the most mundane settings. And so I have many tender memories to cherish, even if none of them include a man on one knee. Well, actually, that's not quite true. I'll get to that later.
My second marriage began in a bar, literally. Not just any bar, mind you, but Honolulu's legendary Columbia Inn. Located next to the newspaper building, Columbia Inn was a popular family restaurant with an adjacent sports bar frequented by politicians and reporters. A good part of its charm was due to its owner, the late Tosh Kaneshiro, and his wife, Bea.
Kelly Dean and I had both moved from Maui radio to KITV (Channel 4) News. Since each of us had been married before, and since we were already living together, we saw no need for a formal wedding or fancy reception. Or even a honeymoon. Over dinner one evening, we made plans to be married on a workday, in a judge's chambers, during our lunch hour. Tosh overheard us and was mortified. "What?! That's so unromantic! You can't marry this little lady in an office! You'll do it right here, in my bar!"
And so we did, on our lunch hour, with our cameramen as witnesses and Tosh, the affable host, pouring champagne like a proud papa. Everyone in the bar got a glass, even though most were strangers, just there for lunch. One tourist asked in amazement, "Does this happen often?"
"Only once before," Tosh replied. Back when he was the voice of the Hawaii Islanders, sportscaster Al Michaels married Linda at the same Roundtable where Kelly and I took our vows. Unlike ours, theirs actually took, and they are still happily married, 45 years later. Now that's romance.
My third husband, Barry Shannon, and I had been together for 23 years, married for 18, when he died in 2007. I don't remember an actual proposal; it was more of a mutual, practical decision. I do recall the day, a year into our relationship, when Barry pledged his heart and soul to me with a ring fashioned from electrical wire. He recited Leon Russell's "A Song for You" and said we didn't need the state to sanction our love on paper. It was an elaborate and effective avoidance of marriage, but it was terribly romantic. Besides, we did put it on paper a few years later. And "A Song for You" became our song, more meaningful to me now than ever.
I love you in a place where there's no space or time.
I love you for my life; you are a friend of mine.
And when my life is over, remember when we were together.
We were alone and I was singing this song for you.
The guy who got down on bended knee for me? Anthony Quinn. Really. While at Channel 4, I was assigned to interview the Oscar-winning actor and painter, who was in town for the showing of his artwork at a Waikiki gallery. My cameraman and I were taken into a room that held two large chairs, side by side, backs against the wall. Mr. Quinn walked in and declared, "This will not do. When I talk to a beautiful woman, I must look into her eyes." He took my hand and led me to one of the chairs, knelt before me and, still holding onto my fingers, gazed up at me and sighed, "Ahhh, much better." Then he kissed my hand and I melted. It may not have been sincerely romantic, but it sure was a thrill. Forced to choose, I'd take the slow warmth of romance over the hot flash of thrills. Fortunately, we can have both, sometimes in the same moment. I know how lucky I am to have had my share, and I count my blessings every day. It makes me smile to see others getting their share too. Like Patak. Just think, whatever her answer, she'll always have this incredibly romantic moment to remember. And it's on paper too.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.