It wasn’t a sure thing. The odds were lousy. Probably an easy way to lose money if you were a betting man. They didn’t have much in common except both were the youngest of their respective broods. She was spoiled, overly protected and coddled, he could do pretty much as he pleased by age 6. Had their roles been reversed, she would have been a detriment to society (probably still is in most eyes), whereas he turned out ok without a lot of fanfare or guidance.
Neither set of parents were crazy about their exclusive dating when they were teens, although her parents dwelled on the issue at length. His parents were a bit concerned he might get hurt (and he did-several times, she could be a shit) but did nothing to stop it like her parents did. But through their breakups there remained a bond in spite of all the detractors. Might have been destiny.
Once they’d made the decision to get hitched, they up and eloped, telling no one except the good friend (plus a total stranger) who witnessed their Monday night, 4 minute event in front of a judge in Elk Point, SD. When they reached out to their parents with the good news, her mom hung up without well wishes or a goodbye and his mom asked politely, “to who?” (Hahaha, what a way to start).
He was barely out of his teens and she had about a year and a half before hitting the big 20. She was highly skilled in the art of making tuna salad and a tasty batch of her great grandma’s fudge, which was all she brought to the table (over and over). He had a job he loved and did excellent work but didn’t make much money. She had a job she enjoyed but made minimum wage which was a whopping $1.60 an hour. They had 2 car payments (and could ill afford either one) rent, a Bank Americard bill which had recently financed a trip through the Black Hills, Yellowstone and British Columbia. Not with his soon to be spouse. Call it an expensive bachelor party with his best friend. This had epic failure written all over it and the odds were it wouldn’t take long to collapse.
He liked beer. Heineken when they could afford it (which was rare), Milwaukee’s Best the rest of the time. She was addicted to Tareyton’s (she’d rather fight than switch) and would drive to multiple gas stations or grocery stores if Tareyton’s weren’t in stock. Neither of these items were in their budget, yet he’d have a beer after work and she continued to smoke half a pack a day, which still totaled under a buck. Not the point when they couldn’t afford the 75 cents. They were young and dumb, but in love and determined to make it work.
Two days after she turned 20 they were blessed with a baby girl and their lives changed forever. They were still broke, in debt, switching jobs, moving throughout the great state of Iowa but except for the debt part, were quite happy. And the naysayers were perplexed how they managed to stay together when most facets of their lives screamed, “those guys are doomed.”
Yet their marriage seemed to gain strength and momentum. They added 2 sons to the mix by their 10th anniversary and were content with their family of 5. They were mediocre parents, gifted with healthy, bright children who excelled in school and adulthood, contributing to the world in the best way.
They realized too late how quickly life was passing them by when their three children were through with college, getting married, starting businesses (getting more degrees) and having kids of their own, just as their lives were slowing down. Circle of life. As it should be.
No one warned them in 1969, 1989 or 2009 that their life together would go this fast. Between work, changing jobs, learning to cook, moving, raising babies, toddlers, elementary kids, sports, teens, bills, junk cars that constantly caused grief, there was always something to stew about. Who had time to think eventually they’d be slowing down and retiring? Yet this is where they are. Most of what they do is at a slower pace. They like that pace. They stay home a lot-part pandemic part-home is their sanctuary and they remain fairly content.
They determined long ago this life together was their destiny going back to the mid-60’s when they met while nervously sharing the back seat of a salmon and cream 1954 Plymouth, cruising the streets of Rock Valley with Bob and Helen. As they celebrate anniversary number 52, they reminisce how fast those years have appeared in their rear view mirror and show no signs of slowing down. But if given a choice, there’s not much they would change. Fate? Luck? How about God’s big life plan for Johnny Wayne and Neese…