40

Infatuation is when you think he’s as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Connors. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger and nothing like Robert Redford – but you’ll take him anyway.

~ Judith Viorst, Redbook, 1975

It’s always a bit unsettling to learn the facts.

When it comes to most events, especially those of which we were never an integral part, we tend to carry around a romanticized set of mental images and ideas of how things went down.

To wit:

Consider this happy bunch of folks. Decked out in jet black suits and red, ruffled gowns. They’re smiling. All the ducks are in a row. Everyone just said “Cheese!”

Except this one:

That’s my Uncle Jerry. My dad’s brother. And he’s clearly not paying attention. Perhaps he’s daydreaming. Wondering when he’ll get to walk the aisle at his own wedding. Or, knowing my Uncle Jerry, odds are good that there’s a bacon sandwich somewhere close by and he’s contemplating a way to get to it. Rapidly.

Or maybe it was the terror he abided just getting to the church. For, as my mom told me just the other day, several days shy of forty years since the wedding of my parents, the weather did not cooperate.

According to the almanac information I Googled just this morning, the temperatures hovered in the low-to-mid 20s, and there was “Rain and/or melted snow reported during the day.”

Apparently, that doesn’t begin to cover it.

The rain? The melting snow? It froze. It took my grandparents over two hours to drive the seventeen miles from their door to the ceremony. Others arrived so unfashionably late that they ended up delaying the service almost thirty minutes.

I’d never heard this part of the story before.

And it might help explain that bewildered look my uncle is sporting in these very expensive wedding photos. Two hours in the car with my grandmother? Yeah, that’d do it.

With other parts of the story that led to this day, February 14, 1970, I am intimately familiar. That this was the second marriage for my father. His first ended just four months earlier when my mom passed away. My dad has shared with me bits and pieces of moments he just barely lived through during those four months, and they are dark and hellish.

Of these five people, let’s just say a majority of them didn’t really care to see this day happen. Things were going too fast. The silly kids weren’t ready. Only they weren’t kids. And they have made it.

Not that they haven’t had their share of challenges. Well, one handful in particular. See that dwarf in the front there, with the form-fitting brown suit?

With the finger in his eye? Yours truly. Apparently I was having none of that picture taking nonsense. Just show me the way to the Lincoln logs and no one will get hurt. Or have their big day ruined any further.

And, Oh! What a day! There was face-sucking . . .

. . . cake-noshing . . .

. . . and bouquet-tossing goodness.

This photo gets me every time. I can hear the laughter reverberating through the hall. The cackle that my cousin Retha must have let loose as she charged in. The sudden exhalations of joy as my mom tilted her head back and clapped her hands at the craziness of it all. She has always loved a good laugh.

I see what my dad saw in her. I mean, my GOD, just look at that smile!

Yet, I’ve seen her frown. And I’ve seen her cry. The kind of crying that starts deep inside and then just erupts in hot tears and words rendered unspeakable by pains not physical but universal. I caused no small amount of heartache over the years. But she is still here. She’s always been here. In my heart, where things are muddy at times but sunny on the days when I choose to remember that she loves me. To think about how she took me and my dad into her arms and gave us a home. Where that smile means we are cherished, honored, respected, and loved.

I shudder to think of where I’d be today if it weren’t for her.

For them, really.

They made it. The story is theirs to share. And I’m honored to have been a part of it.

For forty years.

And all the years yet to come . . .

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32 thoughts on “40

  1. What a great tribute — to that moment in time, to all the time that’s passed between then and now, and to the two people who’ve experienced it all together.

    Really, really nicely done.

  2. Fabulous tribute. Ruf and his family went through something similar. It is a terrible thing for a small boy to lose his Mum and have to learn to love a new one. A hellish experience for the dad to have to explain first one event and then try to make a child understand his need for the new situation.

    And an incredible achievement for the union to celebrate such longevity in tandem with such an obvious love between the children and the parents, despite the earlier concerns of ‘older and wiser’ relatives.

    Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful day. My congratulations and best wishes x

  3. i love this. makes me like valentine’s day – which is a first!

    uncle jerry? bears a frightening resemblence to my ex-husband, posed in an uncomfortable tux, ca 1971, at his sisters wedding. they could have been twins – in both the hairstyle and the facial suffering!

  4. First off, this is just a beautiful. Second off, your uncle’s face looks about the way mine would were I trapped in the car with any of my grandparents for an extended period. And lastly, you rocked your little brown suit 🙂

  5. Happy 40th Anniversary to your parents!

    What a wonderful, heartfelt tribute! And that little boy in the brown suit with the finger in his eye? Well, he was a cutie! I wonder if he ever got to play with the Lincoln Logs?

  6. Now that right there, that’s a love story. Can I just say? You were an ADORABLE little boy. Just precious! I find the quote at the top of your post particularly interesting… and probably true. Wonderful story and pictures, Brian. Happy Anniversary to your folks. Happy Valentine’s Day to both couples — your folks, and you and your lovely bride.

  7. This made me cry and I’m not even PMSing:)

    My husband and I married almost one year after we met, and we met less than a year after his first wife died of a congenital heart defect. I inherited(the easy way) two beautiful children, then 5 and 1 1/2 and we had one more(the hard way).

    People ask me sometimes how I managed a ready made family, how I fell in love with a man who wasn’t quite whole again yet, how I moved forward in a relationship knowing how many sacrifices would have to be made, how much grace it would take to have essentially two mother in laws, to trust that we knew we were ready even if others thought it was too soon, to trust that my children love me even when they are curious about their other mom, what anger it would cause in me to have to pay almost a thousand dollars so the state of California would consider me what I already thought I was, their mother…

    Well, thank god I didn’t think too hard about most of it or I might have gotten scared but for me, those two kids and my husband made me a mother, they gave me a family and when I look at all of my kids now and my husband who is the most loving and grateful person I know, I just think that fate has a way of bringing together the people that fit. I know a lot of women who couldn’t have taken on what I did but for me it was a gift.

    Anyhow, thanks for giving me a different perspective on soemthing so similar.

  8. It just goes to show how the lists of desirable traits that appear in personal ads have very little to do with what we really want or need.

    I can remember seeing posters of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Peirce Brosnan on my wife’s bedroom wall (in an old photo) and thinking how far away from her teen ideal I am. We’ve now been together for nearly 14 years and things are still going strong.

    Here’s a video to go with your post.

  9. Wow, what a great post! Four months, that is such a short time. It’s a real tribute to both of them that you speak so highly of her. And I love the way you set up the shots. Adorable. BTW, my parents’ anniversary was the same day. I think they’re at about 66 years.

  10. What a wonderful tribute. And, as a step-mom, this post does my heart good. I became a step-mom because of divorce, not death, but still take the job seriously.

    Congrats to your parents!

    P.S. Thanks for sharing with me your story of flying alone at 12. 🙂 My daughter just sent me a text letting me know that she checked in okay and is boarding her flight.

  11. I love the story you pulled out of those photos. They would make a great writing exercise: present the photos to a group of writers to interpret as they wish.

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