While we were away in October for our vacation, I expected to review the milestones of Fifty Years of Marriage. Isn’t that what people do who survive that long? We would recount the ways God cared for us through the years. The best of times and the worst. And you would be so blessed. Merry Christmas.
That didn’t happen. Our holiday in Maine, the aspiration of a lifetime, was like all the other days and years of our life. A few were legend. Others we would have been happy to skip. Most were just what you’d expect from normal everyday life.
The passing days
We were surrounded by fragrant pine forest, the sky, the sea and its tides, and the lobster boats that chugged past daily pausing to pull and rebait their traps. The lovely home loaned to us by good friends Richard and Jane Winter was anchored to the rocky shore making us feel like we were safe in Jesus’ parable of the house built on the rock. The glassed in living room reached out over the water at high tide looking as if we were sailing away on a ship. One morning as I looked out the window two gorgeous red fox with black points and bushy white-tipped tails meandered through the yard. Much of what we saw were cameos from God’s stunning creation and a feast for the heart.
When the wind blew with gale force across the water and temperatures dropped it was a challenge to stay warm beside the wood stove with hot tea, but a bed piled high with down comforters thawed our old bones at night.
We enjoyed quaint New England villages, a harbor tour of lighthouses, and the Wyeth museum. We had waited all year to have our favorite seafood – lobster rolls for D, and fried clams with bellies for me. Sadly, in a few hours, the clams left in a stampede and I vowed that was the end of that.
There were some unwelcome reminders of our age and mortality. One day, as we crossed a parking lot Denis, who never falls, fell. After lying on the ground a few minutes he rose with a wrenched knee and bruised palm. We were reminded of a friend’s mantra: Your only job as an old person is to not fall. If you fall, you will break your hip. If you break your hip you will go to the hospital. If you go to the hospital you will get pneumonia, if you get pneumonia you will die. (Thank you, Dr. Larry Bergstrom.) Sadly, that wasn’t his only fall. One night he stepped out to see the stars on the multi-level deck. Forgetting where he was as he looked to the heavens he stepped forward and fell to the ground cutting his ear on a branch on the way down. I was alarmed and very concerned, at the same time I felt less alone because now it’s one more thing we share. How wonderful to not be the only one doing face plants.
Years of growth
It isn’t easy to asses my growth through the years. But I can attest to Denis’. Even in the last couple he has grown kinder and more patient. Over the years what has meant the most again and again was his desire to follow God. Most couples are a little testy about sharpening one another for the good and we’ve each had times with the other in our cross hairs. When all the excuses and defensiveness are stripped away the question remains: Do you want to serve God and grow or not? Somehow, by God’s mercy we have responded yes. That has always been a source of encouragement to both of us.
So even our vacation reminded us that the sum of our days and years, when distilled together are evidence not of life filled with sensational events and astonishing accomplishments – but more of the ordinary everyday ways we have of living with and loving one another: Evidence of purposefully picking ourselves up off the ground and going on day after day and experiencing a few extraordinary glimpses of God’s creation and evidence of his love in the quietness of small things. Like warm popovers and a cup of coffee. All of life is wrapped in the ordinary trials and joys of life even a celebration of Fifty Years of Marriage.