Saturday, July 2, 2011

56 Years

July 2, 1955. A year to remember.  "Why, I remember it well", he thought.  "Why might that be?" he answered to himself. Well, it was the specific day and year that I committed myself, to my best friend and lover, to become married . . . "til death us do part." A lot of people speak that phrase. Fewer mean it.
 But mean it, we did. It was a very hot day, close to 100 degrees in Spring Valley, New York.  One of our favorite people, Mr. Z (aka Reverend Zeltner) oversaw the procedure, looking resplendant in white Episcopal gown.  Below, he is looking a bit more ordinary, with that sweet, boyish smile he always displayed.

We were young, oh so young, when we committed to each other. People like Newt Gingrich probably utter these same words, but, since they are older and think themselves smarter than everyone else, they don't really mean any of it. See, we were young, and sweet, and we meant every word.  And so, we cut the cake and waltzed into our adult, married life..

We stayed the night at the LaGuardia Hotel, at the airport, because we were flying out the next night, to California, our home for a while, so I could finish college. The next day, July 3, 1955, much of New York City seemed closed, because it was the Fourth weekend.  So, we took in a movie--The Seven Year Itch". Funny film for newlyweds.
Then we had dinner someplace in Manhattan. Don't remember where, except that I ordered shrimp cocktail and shrimp creole--exotica. We just wandered around the city, trying to look married and adult.
And then we flew out very late that night on World Airways. We flew on a Lockheed Constellation to San Francisco, departing New York at midnight and arriving 14 hours later in San Francisco.
After a year spent finishing my studies, we moved briefly to the LA area, so I could work at Firestone at the first of several aerospace jobs. My first company, at which I earned the grand sum of $5100/year, was making a thing called the Corporal Guided Missile, a slight improvement on old Werner von Braun's V2 missiles, with which he beguiled the Brits during WW II.
Then, being unable to tolerate the lifestyle and the smog of LA, we moved back to Northern California.  We eventually bought a home in what is now Silicon Valley (then just Sunnyvale).

We were still really, really young. We produced a couple of kids. I worked at Lockheed. Carol cared for our kids. That's the way it worked in the 1950s. I worked for a while, until I grew tired of secret stuff, and working on things that would go boom in someone else's night. I went to work for a small consulting company.
Then in 1964, our company asked us if we wanted to go to India. "India?" we asked. We thought about it for a few minutes, then said, "Sure, why not?" And we prospered there, and grew there as a couple. Carol took to this exotic place (that was before India handled all of our telephone tech support) .

She wore saris all the time, and looked, well . . . spectacular, if I might say so. We were happy.
Then we decided to add to our modest family of two children. We tried for a bit and then produced another health baby girl. Indian friends were disappointed it wasn't a boy. We were delighted.
Now we felt complete. After another couple of years (four total) we returned home to find much of the US in chaos--Martin Luther King shot and killed. Bobby Kennedy shot and  killed.  Later, in Chicago, the protesters tried to burn down Chicago. What is going on??? Well Vietnam was going on. And a lot of ordinary folks didn't like this war in Asia.
 But we kept on truck'n. We had moved to Washington, center of a lot of the craziness (before all of Congress turned terminally crazy).  Our family enjoyed Washington.

Right around that time, in the early 1970s, it seemed as though we were the only ones who stayed married. Our friends began divorcing, as though it was some disease suddenly afflicting our whole population of friends (this was before Facebook, when friends were actual  . . . friends).
But, we worked. Carol finished her college degree and joined the working class (she had worked her whole life, but we don't count being a full-time mom and caregiver as work. Dumb us).
We stayed married. Mostly, though, we stayed happy. See, we liked one another, as well as being in love. We were best friends.

Then as we aged, our kids aged also. Our first, Karen, took off and lived in a commune for a while. She produced a baby and so we became grandparents at a very early age.  Our second, Kathleen, decided to become married, and, guess what, she and her hubby are still married . . . going on 26 + years now.  Our first, the rebel, also got married, and guess what--she and her hubby just completed 25 years  together.
Then, our baby, Erika by name, went off to college, became a doctor, got married and, after 20 years, she and her hubby remain happy together. Hey, the whole family has now been married 56+26+25+20 years. You do the math--a lot of happy years together.
And then we turned 65 and retired.
 Yeah, it happens when you aren't looking. One day, you're a young sprout, full of piss and vinegar. The next, you're 65.
So, we retired. We moved to North Carolina. We bought a 1920's bungalow, similar to the kind of house we had seen in India during our years there. We stayed up to bring in the new millenium.

We continued our habit of traveling to celebrate stuff. For our 49th together, we took a 9000 mile road trip out west.  For our 50th, wow . . . biggie . . . we traveled to one our favorite places--Niagara on the Lake in Canada. We dined at the Peller Estate Winery, outdoors, and we toasted each other, as we do every day--"To us" we say.

And we mean it. It's one of our daily rituals. In the morning now--every morning--, we have a cappuccino, beside our pond, and we toast each other--"To Us" we say. Then we just relax and watch our koi's cavort and the birds play and eat what we feed them.
See, we still like each other. We're friends and lovers, the best of all possible worlds.
So, tonight, we will dine for our 56th at Giannis, our very favorite Italian restaurant in Concord.  I will update this saga a bit later, by adding a picture of us at Gianni's, toasting each other--"To Us" we will say, before we begin our sumptuous meal prepared by Heather, our very favorite chef. Gianni's not only serves wonderful Italian food, freshly prepared and savory. But the owner, John Goode, greets each customer during their meal. And his maitre de, Kathy, greets each customer. They treat us as though we are a member of their family . . . and that is nice. It makes each meal memorable. And of course, our 56th anniversary meal, will be special.
So, "To Us" I say. "To Us."
As promised, an update. Our anniversary dinner at Gianni's was wonderful, with the hosts, John Goode, the owner, and the chef, Heather, greeting us as members of their family. The meal, as always was extraordinary. Heather really is a master chef. And John is a true Restaurateur. Together, they combine to create special evenings for their guests. So, to us again. A memorable conclusion to a very special day.

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