Three years ago I wrote a post about an EPIC night shared by my parents and aunt and uncle on the occasion of their 1st and 5th wedding anniversaries.
It involved fishsticks and champagne and steep San Francisco streets and a poor dude who had the nerve to drive through an intersection when it was not his turn.
This year is my aunt’s and uncle’s 54th wedding anniversary. Two weeks ago, they were there for my parents’ 50th anniversary party. We had fishsticks and champagne. I understand why there was puking the first time.
Two days later, there was a party and everybody came. My dad asked my brothers and me to speak at the party, and we did. But before the party, I told my parents this:
The world knows how we feel about you. That will not be news to anyone in the room.
But the ones who should talk are you. You’re the ones who made it. You know the secret for being married 50 years and still liking each other so much that you spent 7 weeks in a trailer the size of a laundry room and lived to tell. Explain that there was lots of champagne and there were also fishsticks. Probably more fishsticks than champagne on the day to day, if we’re being honest. Dispel the myth of the perfect marriage for everyone in that room.
I knew what I was asking: that they consider speaking with truth about their relationship on a day when it would have been so easy to sit at the head table and let the admiration wash over them like a wave.
But I also know my parents. They want to serve others, even at a party in their honor.
So they did it. They told the truth about being married 50 years. They did it with humor and grace, and they did it for the newlyweds in the room, and the couple with young kids who haven’t slept in years, and ones with three kids going 12 different directions who feel like ships passing in the night, and the empty nesters who are about to get to know each other all over again, and the almost retireds who are worried about how they will fill their time together, and the ones where “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” has become a challenging reality. They lived each of those seasons, and spoke about them with wisdom and faith.
They took a room full of married people and reminded us that our experiences are common, the good and the bad, and that we have each other to lean on. It was hopeful and life-giving.
It was so much better than a champagne toast in their honor.
(We did that too, though.)