Last night I was in the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner, when I heard Dan calling for me.
“Deb,” he yelled. “I need your help!”
I dried my hands and headed toward the sound of his voice.
I found Dan standing in the hallway. His arms were outstretched, his legs were planted firmly on the floor, and his body was locked in an awkward position as if he were playing freeze tag.
“Watch your step!” he said. “My glasses have fallen off my face and I need you to help me find them before one of us steps on them.”
Last month Dan and I observed our 45th wedding anniversary.
What does being married for 45 years mean?
It means whatever one of us has experienced over the years, the other one has too. This includes significant events like becoming parents and insignificant events like eating tens of thousands of meals together.
Side by side we have traveled over a million miles, and we have slept together every night, with only a handful of exceptions. We have shared all our money and held down numerous jobs. We have faithfully paid our bills.
We have endured a miscarriage, Dan’s various health problems, Debbie’s ongoing struggle against depression, and a heartbreaking church split.
Between us we have said goodbye to seven grandparents, four parents, and numerous other family members and friends.
We have been blessed with two wonderful children and four super-spectacular grandchildren. We have enjoyed mostly good health, warm friendships, trips to faraway places, and (except for a short period at the beginning of our marriage) enough money to buy everything we needed.
We tended our kids through countless ear infections, a couple of broken bones, numerous trips to emergency rooms, troubles at school, chicken pox, multiplication tables, baseball leagues, summer camp programs, heartbreaks, and class projects too numerous to count.
We have read aloud all 700 Berenstain Bears Books 700 times each.
We have had both wonderful and undesirable neighbors.
We have contended with broken lawn mowers, dishwashers, ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers, refrigerators, garage doors, and furnaces and air conditioners.
We have grieved together as we watched friends’ marriages crumble and friends’ kids be destroyed by drugs.
We have loved and lost four cats and two dogs.
We have had lawns that wouldn’t grow, cars that wouldn’t run, and babies that wouldn’t sleep.
We have lived through months of remodeling a house. We have been so broke we couldn’t scrape together enough money to buy a new tire for our car.
We have fought nests of wasps and hornets, an infiltration of our home by ants, tomato worms that stripped the leaves off our plants overnight, chipmunks that ate the flowers out of our outdoor pots, mites that made holes in the leaves of our rose bushes, and those hideous, slimy leaches that ate our hostas.
We have also fought invisible enemies: the temptation to become discontent, to hold on to grudges, to become bored with each other, to keep score of how many times each partner caused us to be late, and to become unbearably crotchety.
We’ve attended thousands of church services and Bible classes together.
We’ve lived through silly fads like leisure suits, pet rocks, men’s perms, disco music, bell bottoms, and streakers.
We have seen nine presidents come or go or come and go. We have watched our nation weather wars, riots, assassinations, sit-ins, hurricanes, scandals, college unrest, school shootings, and ongoing political wrangling.
We have learned to have comfortable repartees (a fancy word for conversations) like the one below.
When Dan observed me reading The Catcher in the Rye, he glanced at the cover, and asked, “Is that a western?”
(As if I EVER read westerns.)
I laughed and said, “Dan, if I were you, I wouldn’t ask that question of any other educated person.”
“Why?” he asked. “Do you mean everyone else except me has read or is at least familiar with the storyline of The Catcher in the Rye and knows it is not a western?”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” I said.
Later that day, we watched our nine-year-old granddaughter practice her various swimming techniques: the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, etc
As she demonstrated the freestyle swimming technique, I asked Dan, “Does freestyle mean the swimmer is free to swim in any style he or she chooses?”
“No, Deb,” he said. “And, you might not want to ask that question of any other educated person.”
“Got it,” I said.
Together Dan and I have experienced umpteen thousand little incidents that mean nothing and yet mean everything in a marriage, like laughing at funny stories, watching the hummingbirds feed off our back porch, and looking for lost eyeglasses together.
I am inserting this final photo as a special tribute to Dan, who allows me to share openly conversations and other parts of the life we share. He also tolerates the little violas that crop up every year amid his neatly laid landscape stones. If it were up to him, they would be gone, but he leaves them because he knows I love them.