There’s a long wait for a table at Janibelle’s tonight but the older couple sitting outside doesn’t seem to mind. The word is out it’s their 55th wedding anniversary, and they’re passing the time taking congratulations.
My wife and I offered our wishes and were thanked with kind smiles and a hearty handshake – a firm grip for a man in his eighties – but there was no effort on their part to rise. No pretense of it, either, to which we would have said, “Oh, don’t get up.”
They sat, comfortably past the point in their lives where they need to worry about such decorum.
In the time it takes to drain an Old Fashioned, we heard their story:
He was forty-something years in whatever industry. The work came and went so there were lean years and lots of uncertainty. She had a career, too, but it was in segments – when she wasn’t working, she was working as a stay-at-home parent.
They raised five kids, and lost one to a war – a pain I cannot imagine. Some of them did well and some of them struggled. They’re all settled now but you never stop worrying about your children.
There was the time she found the lump, his heart attack, their first grandchild born to their daughter who was not yet out of high school.
Great, crashing waves, all now far astern.
They are veterans.
My own marriage turned thirteen this week, a pleasing accomplishment that doesn’t happen on its own. It takes patience and hard work and an awful lot of forgiveness, and that’s just her part.
After thirteen years, we feel like veterans, too.
She gets this way sometimes, or maybe it’s me, but I don’t panic anymore. I just listen if she wants to talk but I don’t make her. Be patient. Maybe get some flowers – a good move for rookies and veterans the same.
Mothers are beautiful and children are beautiful but childbirth is a medical procedure and there are parts of it that can’t be unseen. When we were younger the mark of an established relationship was the ability to fart in front of each other without it being a big deal. Now we’ve given birth together – twice – and still want to hang out.
We’ve figured a few things out about each other, ridden our little boat over our own formidable waves, so we feel like veterans.
Only we’re not really veterans. Not yet. There’s still a long row to hoe.
“The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,” says the Psalmist. “They quickly pass, and we fly away.”
But if you’re lucky – and I am – the Lord places in your life a remarkable partner.
Mine is faithful and ferociously loyal. She works tirelessly keeping our little family moving forward. Her blue eyes and beguiling smile still brighten the room. She reads interesting books and thinks interesting thoughts and though I’ve known her more than half my life, she still surprises me. She supports me in my darkest moments. She makes me laugh. She is my best friend.
It doesn’t matter if the road before us is long and steep. Together we are equal to it.