At last…..the day we feared might never arrive, the thirty-third anniversary of our wedding day. What a miracle that we’ve made it this far!
Ours was a simple hippie wedding, in a public park with nature’s own green trees and flowers as our only decorations. Not that we didn’t observe a few formalities: he and his best man were in matching powder-blue tuxes (well, it WAS 1980, you know) while I wore an off-white gown and veil, and my sister was in an ankle-length peach dress. Our minister was a family friend with a $3.50 mail-order Doctor of Divinity degree to whom we gave $35 worth of Maui Wowie as a stipend (did I mention that it was a hippie wedding? ;-)) for performing the ceremony.
Although I was too nervous to remember most of the wedding, I do know that it was perhaps the only nuptials in history that started early. My father was even more anxious than I was, and he whisked me off down the “aisle” formed by our wedding guests to the makeshift altar before the strains of Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance (For the Rest Of My Life)” even started.
I also remember getting about halfway through the ceremony and suddenly thinking “What the HELL am I doing??!!” But then I looked up into my man’s shining eyes, and every concern I might have ever had evaporated in that loving light.
I remember having to stop at KMart for a couple of items on the way to our honeymoon destination and feeling as though the words “Just Married” were tattooed on our foreheads. It was just a mundane task, but when you’ve been married for only a couple of hours, everything is special. So was our stay in a seedy little motel near Disneyland, where we went the next day to celebrate and met another couple who’d also gotten married that Saturday.
When you’re young and in love, you don’t see the fading paint on the walls or the cigarette butts in the swimming pool. You don’t look into the future and see what lies ahead of you. And you don’t care that you’ve got only $200 to your name, or that you have no idea whatsoever of what it really takes to stay married.
Fifteen years later, we found out exactly what it takes as we struggled to save our foundering union. Actually, Will was the one who was struggling; I was bored and restless and about halfway through nursing school. I was also probably manic at the time. But thank God we were still too poor to maintain separate households; we had no choice but to stay together and fight it out.
Five years later, as we stood outside the house we had bought and furnished together, we knew it had been worth it. And now, another thirteen years and four grown children after that, we realize just how precious our marriage really is. We have survived against all the odds that said we’d never make it because we had such a whirlwind romance (we got married only three months after we met) and were so different. We have survived the stresses of poverty, the loss of a child, countless financial and health problems, bipolar, and now cancer.
But as sappy as it sounds, we’re still here, and still very much in love. We’ll celebrate simply; I have the day off, so we may go for a country drive, or we’ll go out to dinner and perhaps take in a movie as well. Most importantly, we’ll embrace the joy of being together on an anniversary that only two short months ago looked very doubtful. And in the words of our wedding song—which means even more this year than ever before—I’m going to ask Will once again, “Could I have this dance…..for the rest of my life?”