Long-time followers of A Story A Week know that every now and then, when a particular family anniversary falls on a Sunday (my weekly publishing date), I pick up that theme for the topic of the story. This kind of random approach has been working well; we don't end up with too many stories about my family, and as time goes by, everybody 'gets their turn' ... eventually.
The one downside to this system though, is that specific important anniversaries - if they happen not to fall on a Sunday - get missed out. And so it is this week. A few days ago, on Thursday, it was my parents' wedding anniversary, and it was a big one - number 60.
When I write about the birthdays, I can usually put myself 'in place' of the person, and feel like I pretty much understand their situation. But this event is different. To spend 60 years together with the same person (and if you count the time before marriage that they knew each other as youngsters, it comes to nearly 70 years!) is something that is so far beyond my own experience that I simply cannot 'understand' it at all. And of course, given that I am 'single' in my late fifties, I will never be in their situation myself. This is simply something that I have to observe from 'afar'.
My thoughts about their achievement fall into two quite opposite poles. My own (limited) experience with partners has been that the feeling of warmth and comfort that comes from being with this person does indeed grow as time goes by, so for the two of them, this 'togetherness' factor must now be very strong indeed, to the point where they can perhaps not even conceive of being apart.
But the other side to the story is the question of how it is possible to even have a conversation with your partner, when you - of course - already know exactly what they are thinking, and what they will say. I wonder, is it possible for them to surprise each other?
Perhaps though, that is not really so important, and indeed, I may be at fault for thinking that it is desirable. If you try and make a comparison with any other form of 'organization', the optimal situation is obviously for the component parts to work together smoothly without surprises or frictions. Perhaps it is a reflection of my own immaturity that makes me see this lack of 'novelty' as a problem.
Or perhaps - given the amazingly long list of experiences that they have been through - perhaps they have had quite enough of 'surprises', and are simply content with their peaceful daily routines together!
Now there is more to this anniversary of course, than the simple fact of being married for 60 years. There is the course that their life has taken during that time. When one considers the environment where they started out, it didn't exactly provide a lot of 'opportunity'. People there started their working life fairly young, and of course never expected that their own lives would be any different from those of previous generations.
But for some reason, their life didn't work out that way. That young couple - the bride and groom we see in this photo - saw a different possible future for themselves, and broke out to grasp it. Just why these two, among all the other young couples of that time and place, decided to do that, is far from clear to me.
None of us can see the future. Sometimes we may have the sense that we are simply buffeted by fate, and pushed this way and that by forces beyond our control, but this couple gives the lie to that. When they chose to leave that environment behind, they could never - I am sure - envision that they would one day sit at this table on a luxury cruise liner, surrounded by their children raising a toast to their long and successful partnership.
These three children, and the grand children, and now the great-grand children too, will never have a clear picture of what our lives would have been like had these two not vigourously grasped at the brass ring as it flashed by all those years ago, and then again and again, any number of times in subsequent years.
To their adventurous spirit we owe everything; the healthy environment we grew up in, the open-minded and questioning approach to life that we took for granted, and the rock-solid support at every stage of our own development.
None of us of course get a chance to choose our parents. We are simply dealt a hand. And some of us get very very lucky!
Congratulations to the two of them on 60(+) years! Kampai!
Story #233, June 13 2010
(The phrase 'sit at this table' may give you a clue ... this story was the 'toast' that I made to the two of them at dinnertime that day, on the MV Oosterdam, somewhere in the north Pacific off the coast of BC, during the Alaska cruise that five of us (the happy couple and their three 'children') took together that week.)