When I was young, I read the Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet because I loved the funnies and Mrs. Griggs's advice column and the announcements of 50-year anniversaries. I'd stare for a long time at the pictures of those folks who had been together 50 years. They all looked old.
Nowadays, you can still find 50-year anniversary announcements in the paper. The people look younger than they used to. . . maybe because of more hair dye and that "fitness fad" that started in the 70s? Maybe because I'm older now? I don't know.
My husband and I are five years away from our 50th. Tomorrow, August 12th, is the 45th anniversary of my marriage to Michael Sweet. We don't have many pictures of us from the old days (people didn't take so many photos then) but I used a favorite one for the cover of one of my books:
That's Mike and me sitting in our newly-refurbished 1962 Chevy Corvan (or is it a 1964? I always have trouble remembering). . . as I like to say, about 45 years and 45 lbs. ago.
With Mike's parents Jerry and Lenora, we had turned the utility van into a pretty cool camper. My dad took this photo on the day after our wedding, just before we left for our honeymoon camping at the base of Holy Hill and our journey to follow, seeking somewhere warm to live. We had our freshly-printed college diplomas and $1,000 cash gifted to us for our wedding, and were spoilin' to get the heck out of cold Wisconsin. That's my brother George to Mike's right, a couple of neighbor kids above him, and my brother David standing in the driveway.
The years go fast. My high school classmates are planning our 50th reunion, to be held next summer. I've been reading about them on our Facebook class site, and I'm amazed at how much they've done since we said goodbye to Brookfield Central High School back in 1968. Then I remind myself. . . of course they've done a lot; it's been almost 50 years! Two generations!
That's how marriage has been. I can't tell you the number of times Mike and I look at each other and ask, "How did we get so old?" When I think of all the things we've done as a couple, there's a long list. And then I remember: of course the list is long. . . it's been 45 years!
There were times I thought we might not make it. Love seems to come in waves, and the waves perversely alternate engulfing one partner more than the other partner. Mike and I "broke up" emotionally more than once during our marriage. I tell newlyweds that you don't have to get divorced every time you break up. But both partners do have to keep on trying; one partner can't do it alone.
On anniversary eve tonight, we're having three of our six grandsons sleep over with us in our trailer on Little Green Lake in Markesan, Wisconsin. Our son Brian and his wife Rachl will join us for some fun in the sun tomorrow. Rachl asked me several times, "Are you sure you want the boys with you? It's your anniversary!"
Yup, that's exactly what we want. Of all the good times from our long marriage, the best have been with the children and grandchildren. That doesn't mean that they don't wear us out now that we're geezers. They do wear us out. Fast. And we're ready to say adios at the end of a visit.
But we're glad to be here - and we're thrilled that we get to enjoy them. You bond the family soul when you spend time together. I hope we're still around to enjoy them for our big 5-0.
We're leaving next week for a journey to the South. First to Savannah, a city I've always wanted to visit. I love the story of the town that was too beautiful for General Sherman to burn on his march to the sea. Then we'll drive to Charleston just in time to view the total eclipse of the sun on August 21st. I've got our cardboard viewing glasses ready.
It's a big trip, much more fancy than we need to mark our anniversary. The truth is, we don't need anything fancy to celebrate our lives together. I like doing anything with Mike . . . . We can sit at a picnic table and watch the lake . . . laugh together at some of the innocent items in the "Police Beat" section of the little Markesan Regional Reporter. . . go to a rummage sale . . . play Scrabble. . . go for a walk. . . .
I read what I think must be the most telling account of the pain of widowhood; the author wrote, "I miss having someone to do nothing with."
Mike is a great guy to do nothing with. Happy anniversary, old man.
Mike and me, canoeing on Little Green Lake a few years ago -
a friend took this photo with her phone and I used it for another book cover.
Mike and me in Salt Lake City this past June
Mike with our youngest grandson Max.
Look at the face on that old Grandpa...is there any wonder why I love that man?
Gail Grenier is the author of Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, Dessert First, and Calling All Horses, all available on Amazon.com.