I like milestones – always pay attention to them. It seems like there is something to take away from all of them – something to learn from thinking about them – something interesting pondering their meaning. Darlene and I celebrated our golden wedding anniversary this week. Fifty years is a long time to share a life. It’s an accomplishment of sorts. In other ways it feels like something that has always felt natural all these years – I can’t really say it feels like it’s been hard work or a struggle. Darlene, on the other hand, might say something completely different about that – you can ask her.
Here’s a picture of the two of us – 8 years ago – we had hiked down a mile and a half or so to some falls in North Carolina on a weekend get-away. I don’t have a lot of pictures of just the two of us. I was taking pictures of the falls that day (always turn my cap backwards when taking pictures) and some guy came along and asked if we wanted him to take a picture of us. So, we obliged him. I’m not into taking selfies – seems embarrassingly narcissistic to me. So anyway, there’s just a few of these kinds of pictures of the two of us around. Maybe I should have searched for a wedding picture and scanned it in – but that might be making a little too much of 50 years. You would see, though, if I had found a wedding picture, that Darlene was beautiful back then just like now.
We shared a single car for the first several years we were married. We dropped each other off and retrieved each other from work and school. We went back to that 6 months ago – just one car – not much dropping off and retrieving now though – we’re almost always together. We lived in a tiny basement, one-bedroom apartment that cost $50 per month when we first married. Fried Spam was a regular menu item. Things got better quickly, though – school got finished and we moved off to California with full time jobs. We’ve shared a bank account for 50 years – money is a part of 50 years together, isn’t it – maybe that is sad, but I’m sure it is reality. You would think with two people putting money in a bank account for 50 years there might be quite a bit of it stacked up in that joint bank account. Somehow for us the expenses always kept eating away at the balance. I discussed shared bank accounts with a young married couple Bible class I was leading a few years ago. Some of them told me they weren’t very good at sharing bank accounts. It seems like married people should share a bank account. We’ve always just put all of our paychecks in them all these years. I don’t remember any talk of my money or your money. Of course, there’s never been much money to talk about anyway. I’ve had friends who could fish a big wad of $100 bills out of their pocket. They called it mdk money (momma don’t know money). I never have had any mdk money. Maybe its because they were smarter or richer than me that they had a wad of bills and I didn’t. Or, maybe it’s because there isn’t anything that Darlene doesn’t know.
I wouldn’t be able to think about the last 50 years without a lot of the thoughts being about the children. Three of them came along in the late 70s. Aaron, Jessica and Matthew are part of what made the years fly by. Children make life busy – they challenge in ways nothing else can – they also bring joy like nothing else can. They have given us 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren so far. We’re blessed – we all get along – and though we’re miles apart we find ways to visit – we get together in big groups sometimes – we skype some and text and keep up with each other’s lives pretty well. Darlene gets a card in the mail once in a while from Aria, our 4 year-old granddaughter – with some crayon drawing and the beginnings of words written – joy shared from little ones who are your family – how great are things like that – they make life worth living. The children have all done well – made their own lives and are responsible and good citizens and are good parents. We love them. I still have to convince some of them to move to Belen so they can take care of us when we get old.
We’ve always been part of a church congregation these 50 years – almost all of them tiny congregations. Most of the time we’ve been active in those congregations – knowing and being known with the other members – being part of what the congregation was doing – we’ve not been just spectators most of those years. Those church families have been a support and encouragement for our marriage and family. We’ve been able to watch examples of many great marriages in those church families. I don’t think you would ever want to discount the value to your own marriage and family of the example of your own parents and of church family marriages. Mimicking the good that impresses in others is part of learning to be good and enjoying happiness found in good. Part of thinking about 50 years is being thankful to others who have helped make it worth remembering.
We drove to Santa Fe and spent the night on our anniversary day. We had dinner at the Coyote Café – it’s kind of famous – the kind of place you might only go once every 50 years. The menu was a little conflicting. How do you choose between seared scallops, peppered elk tenderloin or lamb chops? It’s not like you can say we’ll come back next week and try something different – and I might not be around in another 50 years. The lamb was incredible and so was Darlene’s lobster. The waiter was a middle-aged man and was the best – a memorable meal.
What do you do with 50 years together – what does it mean – does it make tomorrow any better or any different than it would be otherwise? It does mean something to me – it has big value – not that can be measured in the way we measure most things – but when it gets right down to it there is nothing more special to living day by day than the relationships we have. There is something assuring and peaceful and comfortable and hopeful about a 50-year relationship. Living out the today with someone you’ve been with for 50 years is an easy way of life – not many surprises or conflicts or things that need planning or worries about being accepted or figuring out what needs to be changed to be happy. I guess we live in a routine, but it doesn’t feel like a rut. We never know how many more years there will be after 50 years together – maybe it doesn’t matter much. We’ve accomplished most of what needs to be accomplished with a life together. Still, we search for and find ways to be needed by the rest of those in our lives. It’s not time yet to just fade out of the picture. The memories over all the years are a treasure – the new ones still being made are just as important. There are a lot of things I would do differently if time could be turned backward – some of the changes would make certain things better than they were. If I had the afternoon of March 14, 1969 to redo, though, I’d still show up at Darlene’s mom and dad’s house and stand with her in her wedding dress with all those friends and family all around in front of the preacher and I’d say – I do – just like I did 50 years ago.