fifty years

A year ago I wrote a post reflecting on my parents 49th wedding anniversary.

This past summer, our entire extended family gathered again at their home to celebrate their 50th with them.  21 people sleeping in and around their “1 bedroom house”.  It was crazy and loud and frustrating and fun as hell.

I was asked to say a few words at their party, and any time I tried to think of something, my mind would wander back to that post I had written, some 8 months earlier.  I took it, and tweaked it, and shyly but proudly showed it to Gee, who carefully critiqued it, knowing that I don’t hear criticism well.  My immediate reaction to his comments was to abandon my speech altogether, but once I had some time to reflect, I realized he was right.  A blog post is one thing; a tribute to your parents, in front of their closest friends and family, is another.

It seemed right to put the finished product here.  The evolution now complete (or complete, for now):

* * * * * * * * *
Ten years ago, for my parents 40th anniversary, I convinced my sisters that we should throw a party – about 60 people (many of you here again today) invited to a surprise barbecue here at their home.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, we couldn’t keep it a surprise.  They knew something was up, but they couldn’t quite put it together, so we were obliged to enlighten them as to what was going on. 

I believe my dad’s first horrified words were “WHY. ARE. YOU. DOING. THIS?”   I sensed a mixture of fear and irritation in his tone. So I looked at my dear, dear, dad and said bluntly, “Your wife has never had a party in her honour.  She had her wedding reception in the basement of her parents’ house, for god’s sake.  So this?  This is for Mom.”

I could see him physically change as he softened, but all he said was, “Oh.  Okay then.”  You see, it’s hard for him to be the centre of attention, but he would do almost anything for my mother – and she for him.  It’s one of many things that defines their marriage.

Everyone had a wonderful time that day, and so we decided to try it again. Because if anything deserves a party, it is 50 years of marriage. If anyone deserves a party, it is these two.

I know they will be together forever.  They are partners, best friends, advocates for each other.  It may not be not a frilly, romantic love, but it has never declined into complacent co-habitation either.  People talk a lot about respect, and we like to think that we are respectful of our partners, but sometimes it is only lip-service.  My mom and dad truly respect each other.  They never complain publicly about each other, or make a cutting sarcastic remark, or use the other as the butt of a joke.  They love each other more than that, and they are from a time when honour and respect were taken seriously.

Sure, they bicker, they frustrate each other.  But I don’t think I have ever heard them actually yell at each other.  I have never witnessed anger or jealousy or the infliction of pain.  Instead I witness kindness.  Trust.  Pride.  I witness deep, honest affection.  Spontaneous hugs in the middle of the day and kisses on the top of the head.  I witness Love, pure and simple.

This is a gift they have given me: to know what a marriage can be.  To know that it is worth working for, and that when you feel most alone in the world, your partner will be there to take your hand, or hold you up.  In a society where marriage can be so difficult, theirs is a gift of possibility: it can succeed.  It can make you stronger.  Marriage can be the Thing on which you depend.

On October 1st, my mom and dad will mark the 50th anniversary of their wedding, but we have gathered here today to celebrate with them.  My family & I welcome you, we thank you for coming, and now we ask that you raise your glass in a toast to Mr. and Mrs. Kootnygirl.
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One Response to fifty years

  1. Pingback: and where the hell am I? | RhapsodyInBeige

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