Life Notes: 58 Years
An anniversary message to my husband
By Sally Friedman

Remember how young we were? How naive and swaddled in hope? There we stood in front of a rabbi in his serious black robes on one of the hottest afternoons of July 1960, making promises we couldn’t begin to understand. 

Here we are, 58 years later, stunned, disbelieving, overwhelmed and grateful – enormously grateful – that we’re celebrating another anniversary. While this one doesn’t end in a zero or a five, oh, how each of these big-number anniversaries matters. 

Doesn’t it all seem to be happening to some other couple, some ancient couple? That’s because in our heads, we’re still just a little older than that blushing bride and her earnest groom. 

Back in 1960, I had an image of the ideal husband. He was the sort who would pull out his wife’s chair and greet her with violets after his long day at the office. He would also dance well and send poetic love letters on a whim. (You bet I’ve seen too many Doris Day movies.) 

The husband I got – you – wasn’t so easy on the dance floor, and poetry wasn’t your thing. I had so much to learn about what mattered and what didn’t. And these 58 years have surely taught me that. 

It was some years into our marriage – who can say how many – that I came to truly appreciate a man who would listen to my night terrors, who understood that even though I was yearning to be a mother, I was definitely not quite prepared for the arrival of one, then two, then three tiny hostages to fortune. So we fumbled our way through parenthood together, propelling ourselves forward on pure momentum, never dreaming that it would be so complicated – and such important work.   

You shocked and delighted me by becoming the kind of father our daughters were blessed to have. We got through it all, from the diapers and sleepless nights, to the nuttiness and tempests of their teen years, and then those heart-wrenching goodbyes on college campuses. 

When we walked each of our daughters down our front stairway as brides and then escorted them to the old beech tree in our yard to meet their waiting grooms – that was a totally different kind of goodbye. We both knew it, and it made us cling tighter to one another. 

And there we were, back where it all began. I knew by then that it can get pretty lonely and scary “out there,” wherever “out there” happens to be. But I had a man by my side who had big shoulders to lean on and occasionally to splash tears on. 

Those 58 years ago we had set off as sailors on uncharted seas. We didn’t even know how to work the sails back then, but we somehow understood that we wouldn’t let ourselves capsize. We both believed in marriage. We still do. We’ve both wanted to stay, no matter how rough the crossing.  

We’ve learned to tolerate the things that can eat away at even the best unions, probably because we’re both pretty stubborn critters. And while we still remember that no two people can totally understand each other, we also know we’ve come pretty close. We have a history that is ours alone. 

Sure, the kids and grandkids dart in and out of our lives, welcomed, loved and treasured. But then they leave. And we’re standing at the front door waving goodbye, ready to close it and turn back to the real life. Ours. 

58 years. 

58 years of some great moments, but far more ordinary pleasures. Not the stuff of high drama or compelling novels. Reading the Sunday papers in a silence that’s as comfortable as your old moccasins. Eating oranges at the kitchen table. Reaching for one another when something goes terribly wrong – or terribly right. 

And we both know now what we didn’t all those years ago. We know that a 58-year marriage is sacred. That it has a holiness about it. We know that it spans dreams, tears and terrors. And it has a grace that defies words. 

So happy 58th anniversary, grace-sharer. Onward! 

July 2018
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