A boomer anniversary – Number 37


My wife and I just recently celebrated our 37th anniversary. Holy cow!

We were married on March 6, 1971. I was 22, my wife 21. I've always preached to young people that they should wait until at least age 25 before they marry. It's some of that "Do as I say, not as I did" kind of advice.

Our wedding, and the wedding day, were both somewhat unique. On March 6, 1971, in Southern Illinois, the sun was out, it rained, sleeted, hailed, and snowed. Other than that, the weather was fine. Perhaps it was a forecast of a barometrically charged marriage.

We had the first ecumenical wedding in Freeburg's history. The ceremony was held at the Catholic church, with a Protestant minister and Catholic priest sharing the honors. We had a friend sing our wedding song, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," by Simon & Garfunkel. People thought it a peculiar wedding song, but it ends up being quite appropriate.

"When you're weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all. I'm on your side. When times get tough, and friends just can't be found. Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down.

“When you're down and out, when you're on the street, when evening falls so hard, I will comfort you. I'll take your part. When darkness comes and pain is all around. Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down."

How often we've laid ourselves down for one another over the years. In many respects, that song pretty well sums up our married life. It was a good choice.

My wife was my childhood sweetheart. I was probably 13 or so when I first looked at her in a way that was more than just a friend. I remember the exact moment that occurred: The time, the place, what we were doing, and who was there. It wasn't a romantic moment, I was too afraid of her father to get too friendly. But it was a life defining moment. One of those "peak experiences."

We went our separate ways until shortly after my 21st birthday. We've been together ever since. Oh, we've had our ups and downs. It's not been a storybook marriage. We've not talked to one another for days, cussed at one another, and continue to disagree on just about everything. That's all part of it. But you keep going. Maybe it's stubbornness, maybe not wanting to fail. I wish I could bottle up the formula and sell it. It would be great for young couples to be able to use the longevity marriage elixir at their wedding toast. Unfortunately, it don't work that way. Somehow, from somewhere, you begin to get it. You come to understand that you are not totally yourself unless you are with this person. That life wouldn't be right, that it wouldn't be the same. Not in some desperate, dependent kind of way, but in a soulful, heartfelt kind of way.

We hang around with four other couples. Together, we have been married 40 years, 37 years, 30 years, 28 years, and 27 years. That's a total of 162 years between five couples. You won't see that very often nowadays. Five couples, stubborn and tenacious enough to fight through the tough times, understanding that there is no better reward on earth than pulling the two together to form a sum greater than the whole. That's what longevity in marriage represents, the sum of the couple becoming greater than just the two.

Anyway, 37 years completed. We're aiming for fifty. I consider myself lucky, although I'm not so sure about my wife. We've had a good life, filled with luck and good fortune. We have two good children, more conveniences than we need, a few dollars in the bank, and some wonderful friends. Make no mistake, marriage is not easy. To live intimately with someone is probably the hardest challenge that we, as human beings, have to face. There are no secrets as to how it is done. It is a process with no end. You do and redo, do and redo, until you get it somewhere near right. Then you say, "Ah, so this is what it's all about."

Thanks to my wife of 37 years for putting up with me. It's been a pleasure. I look forward to many more. To all you couples out there who have been together for however many years: congratulations. In the words of Joseph Campbell, "When you make a sacrifice in marriage, you're sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship." More recently, the eminent philosopher Bon Jovi might have said it better: "How 'bout let's make a memory?"