November 26th, 1964-November 26, 2014. Those dates are my parents’ wedding anniversary and a couple weeks ago, just a few days after Thanksgiving, our family, my brother and his family, relatives, and friends of my parents, all gathered to help them celebrate this momentous occasion.
I told a few friends after we got back to Rolla from OH that we not only celebrated Thanksgiving but that we also celebrated my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary and without fail, all said the same thing: “Oh that’s so wonderful! That is really an achievement as so few marriages seem to be able to go the distance,” phrases like that. Believe me, I am very grateful that my parents’ marriage has been able to go the distance.
Back in the 60’s, my parents were high school sweethearts. Dad went to tiny Oakwood high school, near Paulding, OH. All the grades, K-12, in one building. (In fact, Oakwood Schools doesn’t even exist anymore as I believe it was eventually absorbed by Paulding’s School District.) Mom went to Defiance High School, the bigger school, due to Defiance being the county seat and all that that means. If a Junior Achievement assignment hadn’t been given for my mom and her club members to take turns selling cheese balls at the Chief Supermarket where my dad worked first as a bag boy then in the Produce Dept., they may not have ever met!
During the anniversary party, each guest was asked to stand and say how they knew my parents. One anecdote that I enjoyed was from one of my mom’s younger cousins. He was an elementary aged boy when my parents were dating and he fondly remembered my dad being the “cool” boyfriend who on the 4th of July showed up at my grandparents’ home with tons of neat fireworks that they all got to set off later that day. It’s kind of weird, and funny and sweet, all at the same time to hear one’s dad referred to as “cool”!!
My mom had told me the day before their party that she wanted me to say a few words. I groaned a bit at this, but told her I would. This led me to a search back at the hotel, on my laptop, for famous quotes about marriage. Some quotes weren’t very optimistic. Take this sad one attributed to President Abraham Lincoln: “Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is purgatory.” Historians have theorized about the mercurial Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband, Abraham. If he really uttered this quote, I’d guess it was made after a bad argument between the two Lincolns. Then I read a sweeter one attibuted to Winston Churchill: “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.” When one considers Churchill’s place in history, I think it makes him all the more human to state that getting a woman to fall in love with him and marry him as his best achievement. American poet Ogden Nash wrote a clever quip about marriage and I did use that in my bit of speaking at the party: “To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up!” To Mr. Nash’s credit, he was married to his wife until he passed away in 1971, so I think he probably heeded his pithy advice!
I lastly shared a passage from the bible, Corinthians 13, often called the love passage as it is read aloud at so many wedding ceremonies. I didn’t quote it verbatim, but gave it my own paraphrase: “…love is patient and kind. It doesn’t envy, boast, nor is it prideful. It doesn’t dishonor anyone, it’s not selfish, it’s not easily angered, and it doesn’t keep track of wrongs. Love doesn’t delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres; it never fails…” I tried to continue speaking, but too choked up to continue, so I merely gave my parents a thumbs up, ala Happy Days and Fonzi, and the audience was kind, clapping anyway. If I hadn’t gotten choked up I would have finished my little speech, to affirm aloud to my parents how grateful my brother and I were, and still are, that they are still married to one another. That through good times, through hard times, through sickness and health, they illustrated to us the kind of love that Paul wrote about in his Letter to the Corinthians. I would then have ended with this: “May God continue to bless you both as you continue on your way journeying through life together.” Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!! Love you so very much!!!!