A reader of a Her View From Home post recently commented that she loves reading stories of people who have been married a long time. I smiled in agreement, and then just as quickly realized that my husband and I somehow, unbelievably, are now in that “married a long time” category.
In 1997, when we had been married 25 years, my coworkers were in awe of the accomplishment. “How in the world did you do it?” they asked incredulously. I just smiled and said, “One day at a time.”
And now, in our 50th year of marriage, I’m the incredulous one. How could this be happening?
It all started with a dance.
We were high school seniors, and the switch dance was coming up in early November—a tradition where girls asked boys to be their dates, hand-fashioned gaudy corsages for them, bought the tickets, and drove. It was unorthodox and so much fun.
I had decided to be part of as many things as possible that last year of high school, and the switch dance was important. Problem was, the first two guys I’d asked told me they had to work, and I wasn’t popular enough or confident enough to want to be rejected a third time. My best friend, Lynda, persuaded me to try just once more, a guy so out of my league, a popular guy, a guy whose mother kept insisting I call back again because he wasn’t home each time I’d called. And I had to have called at least 20 times.
Five years later, Lynda was one of my bridesmaids and danced all night at our wedding, and that wonderfully patient, encouraging, phone-answering woman became my mother-in-law.
But I digress.
The switch dance was frightening on so many levels. Once John said yes, the real nerves began, not the least reason being that he was popular and I was a nerd. I bought a new dress (brown, long-sleeved houndstooth-patterned wool), new shoes, and a tiny bottle of perfume. I made a huge corsage for him, filled with tiny plastic soccer balls because that was all I really knew about John. He was a varsity soccer player. Add that to the list of reasons I didn’t sleep for two weeks before the dance.
John cavalierly insisted on picking me up, and he was driving a cute little white convertible. I hadn’t dated much and knew I was way out of my league, but all of my nerd friends were ecstatic.
If I could do it, anyone could.
As we walked through the door, there were couples holding hands, cuddling in corners, girls walking with their fingers twined possessively in the back belt loops of their guys’ slacks. How could I make it through the evening when I didn’t even know what to do with my hands?
We danced, talked pretty comfortably, and it wasn’t a bad evening after all. John called me the next day for another date although I was sure it was just polite payback for my having asked him to the switch dance. But we had fun, went to a movie, listened to the car radio, and laughed a lot. We were suddenly a couple, attended every sock hop and dance that year, and he asked me to the senior prom. John introduced me to the Beach Boys and Frankie Valli; I introduced him to Johnny Mathis and The Carpenters.
The next years were filled with music—happy and sad—as we dealt with his Navy deployment, a Christmas that he was supposed to come home for but never made it to because of flight issues and a bunch of Marines who outranked him and his buddy sailors, and I still cry every time I hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
We sent each other cassettes when he was stationed in Panama for 18 months, filled with our favorite music and our voices, and we learned to love.
We were married and danced the entire night away just looking into each other’s eyes in disbelief.
We lived a year away from home as he finished his Navy enlistment—moving in rhythm with each other, learning how to listen, learning to be a couple without stepping on each other’s toes. Our first piece of furniture was a stereo, and appropriately, it still holds a place of honor in our living room. It’s been an integral part of the dance of our lives.
There has been happy music, sad music, times that we danced perfectly together, times we heard radically different tunes, and times that we didn’t hear the music at all but still found a way to stay together because of what we’d vowed on that hot July day in 1972.
And somehow, we always found our way back to harmony.
We hummed quiet hymns of thanks at each of our four babies’ births and cried when we heard “On Eagles Wings” at way too many funerals. Our families and friends were always there in the background, helping us innumerable times along the way.
Fifty years is a very long time, and yet it’s gone by in an instant, and we’ve grown from a shy, first-date couple to grandparents of nine who show us all the newest dance moves and are determined to keep us young.
The years have been kind, and wonderful, and we find that we’re so very blessed to still be enjoying the dance.