On This Day, December 7, 2023
Jorma and Vanessa Kaukonen
Will have been married for
Miracles do come true…
Thirty-five years is a long time for anything. We have had struggles in our life together… many were of my own making and I sincerely apologize for the heartache I visited on you over the past. I am blessed that I have been allowed to live long enough to continue to redeem myself in my own eyes and continue the task of becoming a better man a better husband and not the least a better friend! You have always been there for me, there for us. There are always stones in the road no matter what path destiny has you follow but you and I never gave up.
Well, here we are and what a team we have become. I would not be the person I am without you… and I like the person I am more often than not. Our outstretched wings together have spread a lot shade over the years. We’ve shed some tears, but we’ve laughed more. You’re passionate and empathic but you’re also one of the funniest people I know.
I know it probably doesn’t seem like it, but I try to make every moment count. I know you get a lot of grumping and grousing from me too, but I really try to edit that out when I become aware that I’m doing it. When you told me we got rid of the piano today I thought that was a grand metaphor. Shedding albatrosses, lightening loads… May our dreams never sleep, may there always be substance in the wind. I don’t know about the ‘Forever young,’ business but I’m here to tell you I’m all about ‘Forever involved!’
Thirty-five years… I would love thirty-five more but I’ll take and treasure whatever time we’re granted.
How can one man be so lucky?
And from the other member of the wedding party…
The Story of us….
In 1988, I met Jorma in Key West. Honestly, I was minding my own business, having a good time being newly single, working in an exciting field, and enjoying what this tiny little island had to offer. I can’t blame the partying I was doing on the Key West lifestyle. That part of my life was already taking shape long before I moved there. I had gone to the Pier House to see Hot Tuna. I had never seen them before, but this surfer dude (a real live surfer dude) invited me to go, so there I was, sitting on the beach, then the side stage on a hot July evening, watching Jorma and Jack. It was an exceptional evening of music. The show ended, and Tuna’s Road Manager came over and said Jorma wanted to meet me. The guy I was with (God, I wish I could remember his name) looked at me and said, “Can I go?” In a backstage room, I was introduced to both Jack and Jorma. I may have offered to smoke something with them. We exchanged awkward pleasantries, and as I was walking out the door, I said, “Hey, if you want to go sailing tomorrow, give me a call.”
I left the Pier House, went out dancing and drinking with this dude, and went skinny dipping on Smathers Beach. I came crawling in about 5 am, ran a bath, and the phone rang (pre-cell phones). It was Tuna’s Road Manager, Mike Roberts. “Jorma wants to go sailing,” he said. In my most relaxed voice, I said, “ OK, let me get things together.” No, I didn’t own a sailboat, but I had a friend who did who happened to be at their show the night before. I ran down to the Key West Bite Marina, where his boat was anchored, and started banging on his boat. I pleaded my case, and he couldn’t have been more accommodating. The Pier House was next door, so they all came over, and off we went sailing toward Looe Key, a sanctuary preservation area where everyone went to snorkel and explore. It was pretty damn fun. Jorma and I talked like we had to fill in the blanks of each other lives, trying not to leave anything out. He had the fins, I had the snorkel, and we shared our gear until, by happenstance, we realized how important we were to each other.
It was July 4th, and as we sailed back into the Harbor, the fireworks went off over Key West. We were leaning on the sails that had been taken down and tied up into these long blankets as we motored in. I felt something on my forearm. He had kissed my arm for the longest time. It felt as if we had known each other for 100 years. We had dinner back in his room and talked through the night (That’s right…we just talked). 3 am rolled around (by this time, I’d been up over 24 hours), and I told him I had to leave. He drove me back to the Truman Annex, where I had been living, and I gave him my telephone number. I am not sure what he thought when I got out and opened the side entrance to the enormous Presidential Gates that had welcomed Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy decades before.
By the time I got through the gates and up to the house, the phone was ringing. It was him calling from the hotel. “I want to see you again,” he said. 28 days later, he asked me to marry him. We were married four months later on the deck of the Schooner Wolf at sunset on December 7th, 1988.
I’d have to write a book to tell you everything that we’ve been through since then, but let’s just say our lives have not been boring. We have never not been in love even when things were not great. Great marriages take work, and you have to have a really good sense of humor and allow each other to be who they are. Jorma makes me laugh every day. He is more than patient and a really good listener. In some ways, we are polar opposites. I am very animated, and he is not, but he is very funny and crazy smart. We are a team in all things. I am a fabulous organizer, and though that is not his forte, he is my guide and when my grand plans seem a bit much, he brings things into perspective so the plans can be reality. We are good together. Happy 35th Anniversary to us!
Side note: That surfer dude showed up at Hot Tuna’s last electric gig in Florida in early October of this year. Jorma sent me a picture of himself with this guy whose name I still cannot remember. Nothing had changed…he was still livin’ the life, beer in hand, red, gold, and green beads around his neck, and looking unlike I remember. Truth…all I could see was how handsome my husband was.
That’s my girl! The woman is obviously a patient saint who I love more than life itself…