Not Quite Golden
By Kelly McDonald
Editor's note: This is a 'flash' essay, which means that it tries to tell a story or creatively reach a conclusion, while keeping the word count to a minimum. This essay uses the Brevity Standard for flash essays which is 750 words or less.
This year, on May 31st, Beverly and I will celebrate our forty-seventh wedding anniversary. We are three years away from that magic number of fifty, but I’m already reminiscing about the significance of the nearly one-half century that we have worked and played, laughed and cried, lived and loved together.
Golden wedding anniversaries are traditional celebrations in our family. My siblings and I coordinated such an event for my parents nearly thirty years ago. Beverly sponsored a similar celebration for her parents. Friends and family stood in line to congratulate their success in creating an extended marriage. I think our parents were content in their recollections of fifty years together.
And so am I. The similar lifestyles Beverly and I lived previous to our marriage no doubt set the stage for our compatibility. There weren’t many differences to overcome. We like the same movies, entertainment, and vacations. We are both prolific readers, and more. It’s hard for me to determine now which aspects were fully responsible for our years of compatibility, or if some of our similarities came about because of many years of living together. At this stage of life, it doesn’t matter.
But we had our settling-in period, like most any couple. In the first few months after our marriage, we moved into a small apartment together, started building our shared persona, and each worked to make the other an important dimension of their life. But there were slips in responses and in actions. I recall one frustrating day in July. We had just returned from a visit to Salt Lake City, miffed at each other after some curt remarks. I recall Beverly saying, “We don’t get along very well, do we?” It was a wake-up call for both of us. We quickly learned the art of being in harmony, by seeking out what brought happiness to the other.
The raising of our children was a joyful and joint responsibility. Their births were major events in our marriage, and they came close together. We had four kids in grade school together, and the calls from the principal’s office were happening more often. One day the message from the principal was, “Your children have been involved in a playground brawl. Could you come and pick them up?” I was furious that somehow my children had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and were now being labeled as part of the sordid element of the school. When I arrived, I looked around for the other students. There were none. I asked the principal who the other children were, and he replied, “There aren’t any others. Your children were brawling with each other.”
We laughed with our children as they found joy and cried with each as they learned to cope with their individual sorrows. The most painful challenge to our marital happiness was the death of our son Matthew from a drug overdose. He struggled with substance-abuse for several years, but had begun to seek treatment. We thought he was finally turning away from it. However, in a moment of weakness, his addiction dragged him backward for the last time. It was only through our long-tested promises, to be each other’s strength, that Beverly and I could finally pull our family back from the precipice of the deep despair that surrounded us.
So I suppose that in three more anniversaries our children will schedule a golden recognition for us. I can imagine friends and family lined up to congratulate us. We will quietly smile at them, thanking them for coming to our celebration. And they will marvel at our many years together, puzzling about the quiet attitude that we have with such a remarkable marital achievement.
But there is a sinister specter on the horizon. Within five years of my parents’ golden anniversary, my mother died, succumbing to a massive stroke. Beverly’s father suddenly passed away ten years following the celebration of his golden marital event. Such happenings loom larger in our own landscapes the older we become.
The flip side of such a depressing outcome could be another twenty or thirty years of happiness together. Perhaps we will become the Provo Utah Poster Couple in 2054, when we are both centenarians. Having spent eighty years together, the local television station will chronicle our unusual event to the world. While planted on the couch next to each other, each of us will wonder who the person is that is sitting next to us.