Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. We were married in 1970 at Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Gary, West Virginia. We were babies--23 and 20--and didn't know any better.
It was the first time ever that an Episcopal priest was on the altar at Our Lady of Victory. "Pop" Bailey was there, along with Fr. Cook. And we got married--Bern and me.
The reception was at the Gary Country Club, that I had boycotted as a Senior in High School because the Senior Prom was not open to the five black members of our class. There was no dinner, only hoers devours and wedding cake and alcohol in the basement for selected members of my family and all of Bern's family, leaving weak punch for most of my tee-totaling family. It all lasted about an hour and then we were off in my father's Ford since I had wrecked my car on the way for a second blood test a week before, running into a lake in Princeton when I misunderstood a truck's signaling--which I thought meant "Pass Me" (a message truckers often send in West Virgina since mountains loom and there is difficulty getting around them) and which really meant, "I'm turning left". There was a second blood test needed because they tested me for diabetes the first time rather than whatever it was the test was supposed to be about.
Forty-three years. Amazing.
I sometimes tell people I've been married five times but always to the same woman.
And that's true, accurate, real.
The first marriage was two children in love. That lasted a year or more.
The second marriage was Bern going to New York to act and me staying in Morgantown to be a social worker. Two years of that.
Then there was the 'children marriage', interrupted 11 years in by a separation that lasted several months.
Then, the second 'children marriage', lasting until Josh and Mimi were well away and on their own.
The fifth marriage was what we have now. The Empty Nest, it's just you and me again marriage, which has become the longest and best of them all.
God, I love my life and my wife and 'our life' for the last dozen plus years.
I was of the generation who thought we should "live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory". But let me tell you, the last 18 years or so have been the best of my life. Bern and I have settled into what many would consider a boring and very routine life. And it is. And I love the rut we've been in. It is simply the life I've always wanted to live. Especially since I retired. We live to the songs of Maggie, our parakeet, the needs of Luke, our cat, and the wonderment of having a Puli dog named Bela. We read constantly, watch TV from time to time, always eat dinner together, seldom need to discuss anything since we know each other so well, and love each other in a way that is deeper and more profound than all the passion and lust that came before.
Forty three years with Bern (plus the years before--I was 17 and she was 14 when we met in Latin class) so that makes our time together 49 years...is exactly how I would have wanted to spend almost a half-century. Exactly the way--though it didn't always seem that way--but just right, just wondrous, just perfect.
43 years ago tomorrow, two children who didn't know any better, got married. And through all the marriages we have had, we have arrived at the best one, the one we meant to have when we said 'I do' four decades and a bit ago.
I realized a few years ago that Bern is not 'the Love of my Life'....In a real way, she 'IS my life', for better or worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health...for 43 years and whatever years the gods of marriage indulge us with in the future.
(I remember the child of 14 I met when I was 17. We first kissed under the bleachers at a high school football game. She was ethereal, mystical, foreign, unknown to me. A Hungarian/Italian child kissing a WASP of forever generations. I remember that first kiss--the kiss when I knew, against all odds and all reason, that somehow she and I would share our lives in ways we could never imagine but that would endure. I can't tell you how humbled and delighted and wonder-struck I am that I was right. A life with Bern is worth two or three or more in some other circumstance.)
Forty-three years and counting tomorrow....
Imagine my wonder, my gratitude, my joy......
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