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  • Writer's pictureEmmaleen Muldoon

What is love? Kathy and Peter

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

"It was the first time I ever told anyone everything about me, the first time I'd heard everything from someone else, and the first time I had no back-up plan if this didn't work out."

Kathy and Peter

Kathy and Peter live in Oakland, California. They just celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary by vacationing in the same spot where they married: Mayne Island, Canada. Kathy grew up in Evanston, Illinois, and Peter grew up in Flint, Michigan. They met at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) in 1990. Peter, a radio journalist, signed up to interview Kathy, a bluegrass musician who was performing at the festival. “It was a lively conversation,” says Kathy, who was singing with the band Good Ol’ Persons. She started the Kathy Kallick band later in the 1990s.

I couldn’t wait to speak to Kathy and Peter about what makes a successful relationship and see what love means to them.

Three weeks after the VFMF, Peter came to a music festival in Washington and interviewed Kathy again. Kathy recalled, "We spent the whole day together, watching the other bands, and then we had a meal together. After dinner, we took a walk, up and down a dirt road near the festival. As he talked about books he liked, genres of books, and music, I looked at him, and he seemed so familiar, like the brother of a friend, or someone I knew growing up.” Kathy remembered thinking, “What would it be like to be with someone who talked? Someone with no danger, no risky features, someone who wasn't a bad boy?" It was the first time that that idea felt right to her.

Peter lived in Canada when they met, and Kathy was living in Oakland with her young daughter. After more than a year of getting to know each other through good old fashioned letters and lots of trips back and forth, they decided to move in together. Peter moved down to Oakland in October, 1992. Peter recalled, “Living together suited us. We realized pretty early on that neither of us had even the slightest interest in spending time with anyone else, and we stayed up most of one night telling each other just that.”

After a year of living together, they became engaged and married on April, 1994. When deciding to marry Kathy, Peter considered, “ It was the first time I ever told anyone everything about me, the first time I’d heard everything from someone else, and the first time I had no back-up plan if this didn’t work out. All that talking and listening made me confident that it would work out.”

Already feeling committed and having both been married previously, they planned a small wedding, but as with many plans, it didn’t end up the way they intended. What began as plans for a ceremony and reception in a small BnB on Mayne Island, consisting of eight rooms, ended with eight-four guests, every room on the island booked and three vans to shuttle the guests to and fro. Peter said, "The festivities included the minister piping us up to a bluff surrounded by arbutus trees and stunning views of the water in the distance, a half-dozen girls between 7 and 10, friends of one of us unknown to the other, and a baby inside Kathy who wouldn’t appear for another four months. Plus: lots of music, lots of laughs, lots of salmon; and a guestbook that we re-read each year.”

Peter continued, “We’d both long been part of relatively large communities. The love and support of family and friends has made our mid-life connection even deeper. Twenty-five years later, we are still thankful for the communities, and still thankful for each other.”

Emmaleen: Can you tell us a loving story from your relationship?

Kathy: “I suffered a medical emergency a few years ago. I was so scared. Peter stood behind me in the ER cubicle and read to me from Michael Pollen’s book about the four plants that changed life in North America. He read the section about apples. Slowly I began to breathe, and feel like I could survive. The sound of Peter's voice is an anchor for me in the best and worst of everything. If I ever feel a speck of impatience with that man, I remember that moment, and I'm flooded with love.”

What is the key to a happy relationship?

Kathy: “The key to a happy relationship is to keep talking and keep listening. We always find each other when we feel lost. Oh, and a sense of humor. Lovers do best when they can share a sense of humor.”

Peter: “Once you get past the great good fortune of compatibility of values, worldview, passion, humor, desire, reactions (to people and situations), hopes and fears, and whatever else, there is tremendous value in, firstly, talking things through while really listening to each other, and, secondly, compromising and approaching the world in a unified way - or at least in a way that is embraced by both.”

What is love?

Peter: “Love is the certainty that all aspects of life are immeasurably richer when shared with someone else, the rightness of putting the needs of another (and of the two of you) ahead of your individual whims, the knowledge you would do anything for the other, and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing nature of feelings and circumstance, while remaining clear that she/we are The One.”

Kathy: “Love is intimacy and intimacy is communication. The more the barriers fall away, the deeper the communication and closer we draw to each other. There may be a quarrel, but we find our way back and never hold on to anger or disappointment. We never go to sleep angry. We know each other's ways more and more as time goes by, and honor each other's needs and wishes as much as possible. Still, we never lose ourselves and our individuality. Though sometimes, we find ourselves out in the world wearing ‘matching outfits’ because, well, we kinda like the same colors.”

What is your advice to someone looking for love?

Kathy: “Find your best friend. Look for someone with things to say that are interesting but also someone interested. Someone who wants all of your stories too. Good looks, ardor, passion, these are all nice, but an ongoing conversation will sustain and last.”

Peter: “I second that emotion!’

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