This is a big anniversary month for us. Fifty-five years ago Bruce and I said “I do” in a non-air-conditioned church on a blistering hot July day in Miami, Florida.
And we’ve been cooking along together ever since.
I don’t know that our story is any more unusual than anyone else’s, but it’s ours, so it feels special. There was military service for Bruce during the Vietnam War era, a move across the country, establishing careers, home purchase, the birth of children, the arrival of aging parents to our new city, the deaths of those parents, illnesses, children growing and moving out into adult lives of their own, the aging of our once young and firm bodies.
You know … life.
So here we are, grayer and more bent over. Still able, with limitations. Wiser about a number of things, if only we could remember what they are. Still working – Bruce full time, me as a freelance writer – though, both of us, slower and with more deliberate movement.
No matter where the day takes us individually, we still join in the evenings to chat about what we did or learned or observed during that day, but rather than doing so while on a brisk walk, or even a slow one, it’s usually in our respective recliners and with a cold glass of iced tea in hand.
We find we can still do a lot – though not all – of the things we want to do; we’ve just learned how to adjust so that we can do them without injury. It can be a delicate ballet, and we’re not always successful. Last year’s broken wrist taught me that stairs, no matter how carefully trod upon, are not always my friend.
I am not strong and my balance is not good, and I know I need a knee replacement. Bruce, whose work involves a lot of physical exertion, will be getting a hip replacement in November, which he hopes will extend his working life a few more years. He’s not a man who wants to retire and has adjusted how he works (smarter not harder) so that he is able to continue.
He had a series of jobs to do all in one day in remote areas at Priest Lake in June, and I went along as driver and also to help wrangle hose, keeping it from getting hung up on rocks and underbrush, and rewinding it into the truck, saving Bruce some energy.
The day went fine. On the way back, as I was driving, Bruce confided he had been concerned beforehand that he might not be able to complete all the work that day.
I asked him what he thought might have prevented that, and he said he thought he might fall and not be able to get up again.
“And you were looking to me to lift you up off the forest floor?” I said. “Just how exactly was that going to work?”
We both had a pretty good laugh, trying to visualize that particular maneuver, one which, happily, we did not have to employ. We do laugh a lot, at things in general and often at ourselves.
A number of years ago a nice young person really did ask me that really unanswerable question – what’s the secret to a good marriage? Honestly, I think the answer would be different for each of us, as we all have different needs and expectations and life experiences. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Hence, I had no answer or insight to share, and I still don’t.
I do know that for me, I cannot envision life without Bruce – though we both understand that one day, one of us will be living life alone, a transition many of our couples friends have already experienced.
I genuinely look forward to when we come together each day, and he still pops into my thoughts during my day (often thinking “Oh, I can’t wait to tell Bruce about this!”). I think an important thing for us is that we long, long ago accepted and even embraced the reality of who the other person is – so much so that even contemplating the ridiculous seems both possible and normal.
So let me state here that I’m all in, and I have now even put thought into how I might MacGyver together some kind of giant spatula thingy out in the woods in order to flip Bruce up off the forest floor should the need ever arise.
Because I said “I do” 55 years ago, which means I still will. And because he’s worth it.
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.