When we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at a nice restaurant, the waiter discovered how long we had been married. He then told the rest of the staff, and throughout the meal, servers trickled by to offer congratulations.
And to gawk.
Some peered from the kitchen, others peeked through potted palms and one stared through a glass water pitcher. It was a young staff, so no doubt we seemed ancient, and 25 years of marriage was older than many of them. I halfway expected one of them to ask if we were listed on the historic register.
Our 25th seems like it was yesterday. This month we will celebrate our 40th. Should we celebrate at a nice restaurant, I doubt anyone will ask if we are on the historic register — they will assume it is a given.
When someone asks how we came to have a long marriage, I say the key was catching the right guy, which meant being in the right place at the right time.
The husband and I met in college where we were both photojournalism students. Our standard line is that we met in the darkroom to see what would develop.
That’s not entirely true. We met before that, when I registered for the introductory class on photojournalism. The husband, a grad student and teaching assistant, was assigned the job of taking a headshot of every student in the incoming class. Out of 100 headshots, mine was the only one he had to take twice because I had blinked.
He should have known then I was trouble.
You know those couples that meld into one another? The ones that sit side-by-side on the sofa, linger over morning coffee, share every hobby and interest, breathe in sync and wear matching sweaters? We’re not one of them.
We have different interests and different temperaments, but the same values – and that is the glue that holds.
Shared values sustain a marriage long after the euphoria has passed. Granted, euphoria is what keeps couples leaping off cliffs and plunging into the uncharted waters of matrimony, but euphoria has a shelf life. Marriages that endure are built on things of permanence and intentionality: a commitment to faithfulness, a willingness to forgive, an ability to hold your tongue on occasion and a determination to stand together and tackle whatever life throws your way.
The great joys of a long marriage are the shared accomplishments, shared history, shared memories and the milestones of children. There is also comfort and contentment in longevity, an abiding familiarity, a quiet understanding, someone who shares the sadness when a child has open heart surgery or after you bury a parent.
Perhaps the greatest wonder of marriage is the mystery of two lives intertwining. Experts and books never cease attempting to explain it, but the mystery may be best left unsolved and simply celebrated.
One of our sons-in-law recently said, “Forty years! I can’t imagine,”
Nor can we. It seems like the wedding was yesterday.