One morning last August, while sipping coffee on the deck, I realized it was the 1-year anniversary of moving into our condo. A few seconds later, I discovered it was also the 50th anniversary of something else, something my wife had nothing to do with. It was an interesting juxtaposition of two unrelated events.
The moving-day anniversary marked our first year of living a totally different lifestyle. Moving from our 3-story house of 20 years to a one-floor condo was a huge decision. On that day a year ago, we weren’t sure if we were beginning something new and exciting, or basically ending life as we knew it.
One year later, we can see that it was, indeed, the right move. Our condo offers more than adequate, but not too much, space. The condo lifestyle allows us to do more things we enjoy (travel, for example) and not do things we don’t enjoy (storm windows, for example). And because we are both retired, we can do all of those things – or not do them – whenever we want. Even on school nights.
So this one-year anniversary was a happy one. Our life of retirement had taken off.
The other anniversary marked a longer period of time, and a different kind of event. On August 19, 1967, I got married. The first time. It was such a different world then.
For starters, I was 21 years old. To put things in perspective, Barack Obama had just turned 6, and P!nk wasn’t born yet. Since that day, our country’s had our first black president and first p!nk pop star. Ken Burns could produce 50 documentaries describing all the changes.
In my own life, a lot of living has happened during that time period, and most of it has been wonderful. It just took me aback to realize that if my first wife and I had remained married, we would be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.
50th anniversary! I have images associated with those words: 50th anniversary. I automatically think of cute, elderly couples. I think of myself, however, as neither cute nor elderly. (Well… maybe a little cute.)
I remember my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. My mom planned a surprise party for them in our backyard, and my pre-seminary brother came home from college to perform a mock wedding ceremony. I played the “Wedding March” on the piano, and two great-granddaughters were flower girls. I remember how they looked. Mom Asher was gray, charming, always smiling, almost deaf, and her hearing aids were usually making those whistling noises. (The same noises I hear now.) Grandad walked feebly, always smiled, and was exhibiting early stages of dementia, even though he still drove the bright blue Nash I can still see rambling up our street. They embody the image I have of 50th anniversary couples.
I have never envisioned myself in a 50th anniversary photo, maybe because my wife du jour and I got married when I was 40. There’s a good chance we won’t have to worry about our 50th anniversary. Or if we do, one of us won’t know it.
It was the juxtaposition of those two anniversaries that caught my attention that morning last August. One celebrated our new and energetic lifestyle just taking off; the other celebrated a geriatric mile marker, and a life long ago.
As it turned out, my ex-wife recognized the date, too. She sent me a “Happy 50th un-anniversary!” e-mail.
I smiled, and then had a second bowl of prunes to celebrate.