Sunday, July 20, 2014

A 50-year marriage

Kim and I went to the 50th anniversary celebration of some friends of ours in Burlington Saturday evening.

There were about 80 people there, including a handful of folks we knew other than the anniversary couple. And even though we got to the restaurant about 15 minutes early, most of the invitees had already arrived and claimed their seats. Consequently, we ended up sitting at a table with complete strangers.

I can't remember the last time I went to a golden anniversary, if ever. But a couple of epiphanies greeted me almost as soon as I walked into the room. The first, of course, was just how long 50 years is, especially in a human lifespan. The second was just how fast 50 years can fly. After congratulating Bill and Cathy on their milestone, Kim and I moseyed over to a table that displayed their wedding photos, wedding announcements, newspaper clippings and even their cake topper from July 1964.

Bill and Cathy — then and now.
It was the photos that really slapped me upside the head — they documented the journey in time the two of them have shared. Subliminally, I was compelled to reflect on my own journey through time and the trip we all make — of aging, surviving, of friends and family. I was thinking these thoughts without consciously thinking of them, if that's possible. I guess it is. Epiphany.

Bill and Cathy have fared particularly well over the years. Both are still as slim as their wedding day. Both appear to be in reasonably good health — not a cane, walker or wheelchair in sight. Both are still sharp as tacks. Bill, in fact, has a penchant for telling corny jokes and loves to laugh more than anything, I think. Except when he's trying to make someone else laugh.

After a nice buffet meal, it was time to cut the anniversary cake. Almost unbelievably, the woman who cut their wedding cake 50 years ago — as well as their 25th anniversary cake — once more performed the honors. Holy smokes.

Plans were made for her to be at the 75th anniversary.

But that wasn't all. The bakery that made their wedding cake 50 years ago is still in business — and made the cake we enjoyed last night. It was, said Bill, only the second 50th anniversary cake they've ever made. "I'm kind of proud of that," said Bill.

I looked around me and realized that a remarkably large number of people there were also present at the wedding 50 years ago. I'm not sure what my epiphany was there, but I was amazed. Maybe the water is better in Mebane, I don't know. But it was noteworthy.

Near the end of the evening several people got up to tell a story or two about the anniversary couple, which threatened to turn the celebration into a roast, but it never really got that far. In fact, only a few people got up to say something.

Apparently, it's not easy to roast Bill and Cathy.

Then Bill rose. I expected another corny joke. Instead, I saw a side of the man I never saw before. I saw him publicly tell the world, in a trembling voice, he's eternally thankful for the woman who's shared his life for 50 years. Tears rolled down his face. Tears rolled down mine. He told us he's a wealthy man, a millionaire, not because of money, but because his friends have given him a wealth far more than money.

I glanced at Kim, who didn't see me glance at her. We'll be married 34 years in October. No epiphany here: I'm a rich man.

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