This Saturday we will celebrate our 45 anniversary. Where has the time gone? A friend’s Facebook comment on their anniversary reminded me of something I have often said—our years together seem like yesterday and they seem like forever. Other things have also run through my mind this week. While in a quiet moment of clicking through TV shows, I came across Say Yes to the Dress, Four weddings, Bridezilla etc. and began to muse about the amount of time and energy that goes into a perfect day and how little is done to enrich a lifetime together. Weddings are a big business as are sitcoms and reality shows which try to show a “real” view of married life. Actual married life is a gift from God and is therefore holy. Then last night as we were driving home from dinner with a friend, I popped in Michael Crawford singing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and “Love Changes Everything” played. As we drove we sang along and commented about how true those lyrics have been in our years together. I have no doubt that having loved and being loved by someone in the way Bob has loved me these years has changed everything about who I am. As the song says “you’ll never ever be the same. Finally this week, a few chapters from Henri Nouwen’s book Can you drink this cup? It reminded me how blest I am by drinking the cup that marriage has brought.
To put things in a little perspective, planning our wedding was so different than weddings today. We were on a very limited budget. There was no entourage as I chose my dress. There were no chocolate fountains or cigar rollers or destination wedding. The most important part of the planning began first with the Catholic ceremony. Every major event in my life had a Church connection. This was not to be any different. We were married just after the adjournment of the Second Vatican Council. We wanted to do some things with the ceremony that today are a given but were not common practice then especially in the little country church where our wedding took place. We did have a solemn high Mass officiated by two of Bob’s uncles. We wanted everyone to be present at the ceremony as much as at the reception. Parts of that ceremony are still very much in my mind, especially seeing Bob, as I walked down the aisle with my brother and some of the words that began the vows. Fr. Anselm spoke about “sacrifice making our marriage a joy.” It was as important that day that I receive the Sacrament of Matrimony as it was that we have a wonderful reception. (We’ve added two pictures to our blog this week. You can see us on our wedding day and a glimpse of our wedding cake—a little unique in its design but it spoke to the importance of the day.)
Looking back, so much of that day is insignificant compared to the journey of love that has changed everything as we have drunk the cup of life that God has gifted us with and have become more fully alive. Most things in my life have changed and continue to change. I have gained a few pounds but Bob encouraged me to learn to swim, taught me to drive a car and encourages me to exercise. Many of my God given talents such as compassion and leadership are used in ways with family, friends and in my career that I wouldn’t have imagined before. Emotionally I have come to see a passion for life in all the ways I live today as shown when I was a teacher, when we give our workshops, when I’m a mother and grandmother and with friends who face many serious life issues. I can even hold my own in a political discussion with our sons and Bob. While God has always been the guiding force in my life, how I pray, relate to God and live my Catholic faith have all changed as I experience love and am challenged to love one other person intimately.
What a gift God has given me in this wonderful Sacrament we call Marriage. Who would have thought that this little farm girl from Ohio could have experienced all that I have as I have said yes over and over again to the vows I first said on our wedding day. I can’t wait to see where all of this goes. Our 50th anniversary is just around the corner. What joy will we be able to write about then? Happy anniversary to all who read this blog whether your anniversary is this day or this month or not. Continue to live in wonder and the joy that the intimacy of the Sacrament of Marriage brings each day.
As I reflect on our forty-five years together, I also remember our dating days. We knew each other through high school and started seriously dating the summer Rita graduated. We aware early in her first year of college (my second) that we wanted to be married. Through those dating years I never had a doubt that I wanted to spend my life with Rita. As we planned our wedding, like Rita, I was very interested in the ceremony and the things we could do to make it meaningful. I would not even consider being married without the Sacrament of Marriage. We had little money, so fancy in either the ceremony or reception was out of the question.
The morning of our wedding seemed to last forever, as I waited for our one o’clock service. As Rita walked down the aisle, escorted by her brother, she was stunningly beautiful. Still, I remember that her brother put her hand in mine and said, “Here she is!” I was pleased that my uncles could witness our vows and my “yes” to them was meant with all my heart. The reception was nice – we were surrounded by family and friends – but I have to admit that I couldn’t wait to leave and begin our life together. We borrowed money from Rita’s brother so that we could have a honeymoon in a cabin in Kentucky. Lack of money had no impact on the fun we had being together and not having to separate at the end of the evening.
As we lived through the years of our marriage we had mostly very good times, but there were periods when we seemed to be unable to hold on to the fun and the closeness that we cherished. Sometimes I wondered whether she could love me and mostly assumed that there was something wrong with me. I was certain that I still loved her. Now I see that those were times of growth when we learned how to work through issues and always emerged stronger than before.
Our wedding ceremony set us off with great anticipation and hope on an adventure together that we could not foresee. It started us off with joy and a zest for life that we never have completely lost. Many times in the last forty five years we have renewed our vows. Each time the renewal found us in a different place and helped me to see our life together with growing meaning. The vows always reminded me of that little church in rural Ohio and the words that I meant with all my heart. Each time they gave me renewed hope for the future and helped me to anticipate the future with joy.
Through the years, my life has been enriched in so many ways by Rita’s never-ending, never-limited love for me. While I was never concerned about my intellectual ability, I was never very confident as a social person. I found it difficult to be a part of groups and didn’t think that people really wanted to be in my company. Over many years, Rita’s unrelenting love and her assurance that others also loved me has allowed me be more open with other people, even strangers, and to be a more social person. It still amazes me when I sit back in a group and someone says, “Bob, you’re quiet! We’d like to hear from you!” Rita’s compassion for others and her great people skills, along with her gentle nudges, have taught me to be less rigid and more willing to give others a break. I have no doubt that I am a better person because she has loved me into life. Rita is also the joy of my life. She still laughs at my humor, even when I’m pretty sure it isn’t very funny (well, she does groan occasionally, but that’s part of the fun). I love to sit and watch how she relates to other people – students, friends and especially our children and grandchildren.
It is interesting to me that I can see growth in our relationship in the last few years. I don’t know how to describe it – we seem to be able to disagree with each other and sometimes even grump at each other – and just let it go away. It seems that none of those things are a big deal, anymore. We go from a disagreement to teasing and laughing together, and life is good.
As we pass forty five years and look ahead to fifty and beyond I find myself filled with the same joy, hope and zest for life I had on our wedding day. Stay tuned – this adventure isn’t over yet.
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