46 years

I was a young teenager when my parents turned 45. My father’s birthday was first, right after Christmas and my Mom’s was July 3. We celebrated both occasions with cakes, but we didn’t have 45 candles on each cake. It was just too many candles. We had lots of children in our family and there were a lot of birthday candles in a box in our kitchen, but it seemed like too many to count out and light all of those candles. I can’t remember what we did for our Father’s cake, but our Mother’s cake was topped with a sparkler, which gave dramatic effect, but also dropped hot bits of something inedible into the frosting at the top of the cake, which had to be scraped off before the cake was served.

What I remember was that for some reason that set of birthdays gave me a sense that my parents were getting older. I hadn’t thought of them as old before. My great Uncle Ted, who lived in our town and joined us for all family occasions and celebrations was much older. So were my grandparents on my father’s side. My mother’s parents were no longer living. For some reason, I decided that 45 was somehow the beginning of old age. Being 66 myself now, that seems like a strange notion, but I thought differently when I was a kid.

The years go by and all of a sudden even 45 years doesn’t seem like all that long of a time. It was 46 years ago today that I stood with Susan in the sanctuary of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Billings, Montana and promised my love and faithfulness for as long as we both shall live. I enjoyed the feeling of being a newly wed and I hung onto that designation for several years. Looking back this morning, it doesn’t seem like it was so long ago.

There have been some wonderful adventures. Our first year of marriage we set up housekeeping in an apartment in an office building on campus. We served as janitors for the building in exchange for our rent. It was light duty. There were carpets to vacuum, office garbage cans to empty, bathrooms to clean and a few other light housekeeping chores. I don’t think it took us more than 4 or 5 hours a week to do our work. The apartment was small and we had to adjust to both being students with only one typewriter and the desk with the typewriter was in our bedroom which also was our living room. I learned to go to sleep when Susan was studying, but I never got the hang of sleeping through her arhythmic typing. I would sometimes get up and type her papers for her on the belief that I could get more sleep that way.

The next year we moved to Chicago for four years of graduate school. We had several apartments during our time in Chicago, all tiny, all adequate for our needs.

And somehow, the years have flown by and we have become parents and our children have grown up and we have made several moves across the country and now we are grandparents and our family is spread from South Dakota to Washington to Japan.

As I begin this day of our 46th wedding anniversary, the dominant emotion is gratitude. I’m not even sure that gratitude is an emotion, but it is what I feel. I’m grateful that she took a chance on me. I’m grateful that we forged a life together. I’m grateful for her partnership and leadership and strength and intelligence.

We have plenty of friends and family members who have experienced divorce and family reconfigurations. We’ve been blessed to have found the right partners early in our lives. I know that not everyone is so fortunate.

In the first couple of weeks of our marriage, we attended a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for some elders in our church. The typical questions were asked of the couple, including “to what do you attribute your long and successful marriage?” I remember part of the answer that was given at that gathering and I’ve been to plenty of similar gatherings over the years and heard a lot of different answers the the question. It won’t be long before people will start to ask me the question. I don’t know the answer. Part of it is good fortune. I went to church camp and I met the right person. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. The story of how we met entertained our grandchildren at bedtime last night as we are all at a different church camp this weekend. Part of the answer comes from other things that are beyond our control. We’ve been blessed with good health. We’ve had careers that have paralleled and supported each other. We’ve had children who are loyal to and supportive of family.

So I don’t have an answer to why we’ve been married so long. I guess that it is just a matter of having lived to this age and having always wanted to be with each other. We have so much fun being together that neither of us would want to try to go it alone.

It seems to me that there is no better place than church camp and no better activity than introducing our grandchildren to the camp experience with which to celebrate 46 years of marriage. Church and camp have been central to our lives together and will be important to us as long as we are around.

I told my grandchildren last night that when I first met their grandmother she was tall and quick and she took my hat. She returned it, but I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t think she should have taken my hat in the first place. She quit taking my hats a long time ago. The gesture, however, did get my attention and we did become friends. And to this day she is my best friend forever.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!