We say this frequently, but seriously this time, it’s just not possible. Could it be I’m missing an alternate universe clip from my life and Rip Van Winkled my way through 20 years? I don’t feel like I’ve missed much, yet a couple of decades have quietly slipped from my life without me even realizing it.
It was a mundane Monday. I was jittery. Stomach doing flip-flops, my mouth as dry as a popcorn fart and I had unconsciously nibbled a good sized chunk from the bottom of my lip, which would prove sore for the next several days. I was in cahoots with someone, keeping secrets, both which I’m pretty good at but this was different. Life changing even.
As far as I knew only 3 people in the world knew our secret (and one was a total stranger so I wasn’t expecting him to spill the beans and announce my intentions to the world). I felt like I was wearing something akin to ‘The Scarlet letter,’ emblazoned on my meager chest. Anyone glancing upon my countenance would certainly nod as they smirked, “I know what’s going on, you’re not fooling anyone.” So I looked no one in the eye during the preceding weekend leading up to the mundane Monday.
Johnny Wayne and I had dated/split/dated/split for several years, mostly through no fault of our own. Oh I’m responsible for a couple of them because I was a fickle, spoiled little shit, though most of our breakups were caused directly from above. My parents, (not God-He was on board except for the fooling around part) usually Mom. She didn’t view John as a suitable mate for her delinquent brat and voiced her strong opinions daily. I was neither assertive or strong willed enough to fight them on this matter. Except for the mundane Monday after the preceding weekend. I just kinda grew a set, said hell no, I’m not gonna take this anymore. Whoo boy. (There would be consequences from Mom, lasting until the day she died. She may still be holding a grudge).
During that fateful weekend, Johnny Wayne and non-confrontational Neese quietly decided to elope. To stay on the down low, we opted to get hitched in South Dakota for a couple reasons. Our impending nuptials would not be published in the Sioux City Journal where hundreds of folks from our hometown would read about it ahead of time, and there was no waiting period in South Dakota. We had our bloodwork done (soon-to-be-Hubs passed out when the needle was inserted. To this day-he’ll never live that one down-hilarious).
There were a couple of hiccups of course. Had a flat tire on our way to Elk Point on Friday when we were applying for our marriage license. This had to be done before they closed at 5 so we narrowly missed the deadline. And we had no money, no place to live, bills up the wazoo, but by this time there was no stopping us. No asking permission or forgiveness and no apologies. Let’s do this.
On that mundane Monday, September 22, 1969 we (I had to drive-soon to-be groom had lost his license from speeding tickets and drag racing-what in the world was I getting myself into?) I was 18, John 21. Parked my 1968 Ford (fix or repair daily) Mustang in front of Elk Point’s beautiful courthouse about 6:50 pm and waited for our witnesses to show up. (One was Hubs roommate and a friend from our hometown-thanks Dale, the other a teaching buddy of Dale’s named Ed something, his last name is illegible on our marriage license ha-ha. He was the stranger who knew about our secretive, devious plan).
Didn’t know if my legs would propel me up the concrete steps of the courthouse and I think John was more nervous than I was. Met in the judge’s chambers, stammered our way through 3 minutes of vows, and by 7:05 we were legally wed. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change one solitary thing. Not one. Don’t even get me started on spending thousands on a stupid wedding. Instead of planning for months, over thinking, over spending, fighting who sits at what table, changing your mind about insignificant crap, how about getting married with 40 friends and relatives present and spend all that extra time working on your first 5 years of marriage because they’re brutal! If there’s gobs of money, use it for a down payment on your first home. If this mode of thought was followed religiously, (BTW God is a big help in the area of marriage longevity) the divorce rate would plummet. Trust me.
Freshly minted Hubs and I took our 2 witnesses out for a steak supper in Elk Point and bade them farewell. The newlyweds were headed for the Black Hills. We got as far as Sioux Falls before reality smacked us in the face. We had very little money and only a couple days off from work. The parts that were still thinking rationally decided we’d just hole up in a hotel for a couple days, call it good and head back to Sioux City without a bigger credit card bill.
So here we are celebrating our 50th anniversary. Feels surreal. When I think back I realize it’s not always been easy. Our marriage didn’t always include the perfect job, a decent house, vacations, or enough money to cover the bills. Sometimes it was sick kids, lay-offs, broken down cars, arguments on child rearing. Unless you’re made from a whole different dye lot than we are, marriage is hard work. We were 2 individuals with very different ideas on everything from raising kids, jobs, religion, sex, and what to do with our money (or lack of it). However, we were deeply committed and in love with each other which is paramount if your marriage is gonna work.
Except for a couple glitches here and there, the years have been good to us and have sped by at warp speed. Our 3 children are grown, successful and wonderful people. They in turn have given us 4 amazing grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Who knew how much of a blessing your kid’s kids would be in your life? I’m up in the card category during our many years together. Hubs forgot our anniversary once. In his defense he was working on a multimillion dollar project, requiring too many hours a day as his deadline neared. (He made it easily, under budget, saving the company a million bucks). Does not negate the fact I’ve now bought 50 anniversary cards while he’s only purchased 49. Slacker.
A couple of anniversary memories come to mind. On our first I was 6-1/2 months pregnant with Shannon. I looked so cute and felt so good. We bought a crib at a garage sale for 5 bucks (the crib slats were about a foot apart), painted it bright yellow then got a 20 dollar mattress at K-Mart. I think our kids (plus Ariana) made us a fancy supper at home for our 25th anniversary in North Muskegon.
But the one that produces the most poignant memories for me was our 10th. We were living in Spencer, Iowa (loved it there). Shannon was 8-1/2, Joshua was 4 and Adam was 10 days old. His breech birth had been traumatic for all of us and I was recovering slowly. There would be no fancy restaurant on that September 22nd. Hubs and Shannon were making supper downstairs, Josh was playing with his Matchbox collection on the floor in our bedroom, Adam had just finished nursing (my only breast-fed baby) and was laying next to me. I could barely hear John and Shannon collaborating on supper chores, plus the sound of Joshua’s cars zooming up and down on the wooden floor. I was in a semi-stupor thinking about the previous decade. Totally amazed that I was the mother of 3 and had been John’s wife for 10 years! One of my favorite memories.
Hubs folks had 58 years together before Jim passed away in 1987. My parents celebrated 62 years before Mom succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004. Average that and I come up 60. Another decade together. Doesn’t sound very long does it? (We are rarely satisfied and tend to always want more). But there are many couples who never reached 30, 40, let alone 50 years together. Thanks for the first 50 God…