I am 72. Nita is 73. We have not (yet) lived particularly long lives. Looking ahead, we may or may not experience the luxury living through our eighty’s, into our ninety’s. We don’t know if either of us will face the challenge of living with grace and dignity as our abilities to keep doing what we’ve always done, fall away, one at a time. That’s the unknown future.
The wonderful known thing of now, is that today is our 50th wedding anniversary. For more than 2/3 of our lives, Nita and I have been ‘us.’ I’ve said more than a few times that she and I aren’t just married, we’re joined at the hip.
It’s common to hear couples joke about staying married a long time. They mention making it through the ‘rough patches.’ Maybe I’m wearing blinders, or am already senile, but I honestly don’t remember any particularly rough patches in our five decades of marriage. I think that means that if God sometimes shoves two young people at each other, His hands were on our backs in the days when we were barely adults.
Fifty years of marriage has never been a special goal of ours. Neither of our own parent couples reached a golden anniversary, due to the mid-life divorce of my parents and the sudden death of Nita’s father just a few weeks after our wedding. We all know that lives end unexpectedly, and paths chosen early in life, change. We understand that both luck and God’s grace have helped our marriage. We are proud of reaching fifty years together, and rather than having attained a goal, we’re viewing today as a mile marker, a noteworthy stake alongside the road with a gravel pull-out for a little celebration before moving further on down the highway.
Regretfully, the first week of 2022 has already unveiled itself as another frustrating year of on-again-off-gain gatherings. Plans for our golden anniversary reception later today have moved from maskless to masked, from indoors to outdoors. and may wind up as only an intimate family gathering. Our little town is not in a protective bubble. Nearly one in three people in our county are testing positive for the new Covid, and not surprisingly, our circle of friends includes a lot of seniors like us who are shy about exposing themselves to infection. Nonetheless, we’ll toast ourselves with whoever shows up.
And yesterday, bless them both, our two sons each put surprise gifts in front of us. Son Ben carried in a small table he built, the top of which is an old stained-glass window that was salvaged from the demolition of the church where we were hitched. Now that’s a meaningful momento.
After we previewed the Power Point slide show of highlights of our fifty-year marriage that I pulled together for today’s reception, son Todd said, “We’re not done yet. Stay seated.”
He then popped up on the big TV screen an anniversary congratulations speech to us from actor Sean Aston. Sean, otherwise known as Samwise Gamgee, J.R.R. Tolkien’s character who was the relucant compass who kept Frodo on the hard but truth path. I first read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1967, and in 2014 I almost missed the tour bus just so I could drink a pint in the tavern in Oxford, England where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis hung out. The short congratulatory speech to us from the guy who played Sam was touching and cool, and for the second time in the day before our anniversary, I wiped away tears. It struck me for not the first time that Nita’s and my best work lay in our two sons.
So, later today we will celebrate with whoever shows up, and the day after we will begin our second half-century together. Stay tuned.