Fifty years, for better or worse
July 20, 2006
Fiftieth wedding anniversaries must be a rarity, judging from the paucity of greeting cards heralding the occasion at Carl’s Pharmacy.I’m sure they don’t sell a lot of them. I’d never purchased one before, nor had I ever known two people who’d stuck it out for a half-century – until today.My parents have been married 50 years. Or, as one of my co-workers put it: “Your parents have been married 50 years? Holy crap!”Said another friend: “Oh, my God. Fifty years married to the same person? I can’t fathom that.”Of course, her husband is about 20 years her senior. When they got married, she explained, “I figure, by the time I’m tired of him, he’ll be dead.””Till death do us part” or planned obsolescence?I know what she means, though. Fifty years is longer than I’ve been alive, which, when I stop think about it, is how it should be. But still. I have socks that have lasted longer than any of my romantic relationships.Most people won’t spend 50 years in the company of anyone but themselves, and that’s by necessity, not choice.Fifty years. That’s 18,250 days, or 438,000 hours. It’s a lot.Does 50 years with the same partner mean two people are truly committed or that they ought to be committed?What’s the secret to that kind of matrimonial longevity? True love? Utter complacency? An ironclad prenup?I’ll bet selective hearing is critical component.In Wisconsin, people stick together for warmth.In my parents’ case, modern medicine, as much as love, gets the credit for putting the milestone within reach, but in general, can longer life expectancies overcome a 50 percent divorce rate and a trend toward tying the knot at an older age? I suspect 50th wedding anniversaries are headed for extinction, or very nearly so.Among my peers, I can think of very few who have a real shot at a golden wedding anniversary, given their age, if nothing else.If my present relationship lasts 50 years, we’ll both be drooling into our oatmeal on the happy occasion and trying to remember each other’s names. Like many people I know, I’m starting way too late in life to have any reasonable expectation of a 50-year romance.As for my parents, I’ve sometimes wondered what in the heck they ever had in common in the first place, but I can relate this tale of compatibility:The last time I visited, Mom told me that, shortly after they were married, Dad said one of the things he liked most about her was that she’d do the talking at social gatherings, so he wouldn’t have to make small talk, which has never been his forte.When I asked Dad if he was still glad to have Mom do all the talking, she said, “Of course he is.”Janet Urquhart congratulates her parents. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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