Wow, 50 years. On July 11, 1964, JB and I repeated vows to love, cherish and for me to obey him. It makes me take pause and think about how we made it, when so many marriages went sour. I don’t think I ever obeyed him, that was a prickly one for me, but we did honor each other, through many good, difficult, and a couple bad years. I was almost 20, JB was older – he was almost 21. We felt all grown up and ready for the commitment… but we still had a lot of growing up to do. I now understand that’s normal, that’s life. We are continuing to grow up together. Maybe the most useful thing we learned along the way is how to continue to become ourselves, with integrity, with mutual respect, and with love.
We didn’t jump into marriage (or bed), we dated for five years. During those five years we also dated others – just for comparison, but my phone wasn’t ringing off the hook with invites. I have always thought that it was because I wasn’t the small, petite type of girl boys like to date, but maybe it was also because everyone knew JB and I were a unit. We chose each other because we liked each other, not to score ego points by dating the most popular. JB wasn’t a jock, and I wasn’t a cheerleader. We weren’t homecoming king and queen. We didn’t date a lot of others because we enjoyed each other’s company so much. We still do. We are still best friends.
We now have fifty years of going to bed together, and waking up together. That is roughly 18,750 nights. It is interesting how our going to bed experience has changed over the years. I smile at the passion of those early years of marriage, and groan when I think of dropping in exhaustion during the child raising years. I remember the night we went to bed, after talking about whether we could stay together and make it work. We held hands, and one of us said how scared we were. JB said maybe we should pray but both of us felt so much pain we couldn’t find words – so we just let the tears slide down our cheeks and moaned. God heard. Now we crawl into bed grateful for having shared another beautiful day; we know how precarious our time together is. Now one of us will ask, “See you in the morning?” and the other will say, “Of course.” And in the morning we rejoice in having another day together.
We stayed together because we had three children and almost enough money to maintain one simple household. During those two precarious years we fell out of love on alternate schedules, so there was always one of us hanging on tight. We had a few days sprinkled in through the years when we had some serious disagreements or did things that really hurt the other – but we no longer feel their sting. Sometimes we remember them when an ill-spoken word pokes the scar, but mostly they have been resolved and we have healed. Most the time we don’t remember them.
We are so happy that we stayed together because we are enjoying growing old together. We have both mellowed but have maintained a witty edge so we laugh a lot. We now (usually) let each other know we aren’t going down the right path with a loving jab of humor that turns things around. Our bodies have aged, but we take that in stride because we know we are both more than our bodies. Maybe our eyesight is getting poor, or we have learned what is important to see. Maybe we are just gentle with each other because of our love and knowing we are in it together. We understand each other’s grief over loosing what we had when we were young, but have an implicit agreement to appreciate what we have gained.
We have shared the joy of watching children grow into delightful adults – each so different and special. They are good friends that we enjoy spending time with. Now we are watching as grandchildren discover who they are and find their way in life. How wonderful to see the next generation taking responsibility as parents, aunts and uncles nurture and teach the younger ones. How strange it feels to be the older generation – the ones I remember sitting off to the side watching all the action. We have all the shared memories of funny things that happened along the way – but we also have different memories. It is like living different shared pasts, together. JB and I have fun sharing these memories, and I look forward to gathering with siblings and cousins to remember together and ask questions we didn’t ask the previous generations before they died. We are very aware that we are the next generation to die so we better get things in order for our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Every life stage has responsibilities.
Life has never been more comfortable for us. We are lucky because our health issues are minor and we have been able to change lifestyles to adapt. We are planning our next 10 years to take advantage of our current mobility because we know we will continue to loose energy and functioning. We always lived a very simple life, living well within our means and saving for retirement. We also had the good luck of having good economies when we needed them. We maintain a comfortable lifestyle that is simple by some standards, wealthy by others. It is perfect by our standards. We do what makes us happy and is within our budget. One of the difficulties of retirement is that we can’t earn more, except from investments. We are balancing spending money to enjoy life now while ensuring we have enough to last until we die, whenever that may be.
I’ve been thinking about how many years I would like to live. Probably a futile activity because I don’t have much control over it and my answers all depend on whether my body and mind are functional, and whether I have JB and my friends. But it would be kind of fun to celebrate our 65th anniversary together.