I am celebrating it, too. Today marks forty years since they walked down the aisle at St. Ann's church, and I wonder how they pictured the life ahead of them on that day.
I wish I had their wedding picture to post, but I don't. I can picture it perfectly, the one that sat on my grandmother's living room shelf my whole life. Mom in her pillbox hat, bangs, long straightened hair falling over her shoulders. (She told me she had to fight my grandmother over having her hair down.) My Dad in his white tuxedo with the black lapel. Mom carried daisies. (It was 1970.)
Dad had recently been discharged from the Marines after two tours in Vietnam. Mom had waited for him, working office jobs while she tracked his letters on a map. It sounded very romantic to me as a kid. Once I had been through separation from my future husband, I realized it was much harder and rarer than I realized to keep faith in a love that is really just a memory studded with occassional letters.
I once asked my Dad how he knew that he wanted to marry my mom. He said that there came a time that he would drive her home at the end of a date, and it was too hard to say goodbye.
My mother claims that she knew she wanted to marry my Dad the day she met him. She was friends with his sister, who hoped to introduce them. He was home from boot camp and went to pick up his sister at my mom's house. He walked into my grandmother's kitchen, he asked her out, and after he left, my mother turned to her own sister and said she thought he was the man she would marry.
It goes without saying that 40th wedding anniversaries are pretty rare. I would say that they are lucky, but I've been married for 13 years myself, and I know that dedication and patience have as much, if not more, to do with it as luck.
I remember one Thanksgiving eve my Mom sent my Dad out to get a fresh turkey. He came back with one that he said was labeled fresh, Mom said it was frozen solid, and an exasperating circular argument ensued. Dad went back to the store. Muttering. But he was over it by the time Mom needed him to peel the turnips.
I remember another dinner, when I was much, much younger. Dad and my sisters and I were all at the table ready to eat, and Mom turned toward us from the stove, with a large casserole in her hands. It slipped and crashed to floor, shattering all over. Dad got up from the table and just put his arms around Mom and hugged her. I remember being completely stunned, because if my sisters or I had dropped that casserole, I didn't think we'd have been hugged.
They've set a solid example for me, and for all of my family, I have no doubt. Ron and Ruth, they just go together. I can't imagine one without the other. Their marriage has been the foundation for all my mine and my sisters' lives. They made a home where we had dinner around the table every night, our holidays were full of traditions, and our family had fun together. Board games, card games, charades--even as teenagers our best friends would play Balderdash with the Pelletiers.
I remember they could fight, but I don't really remember what they ever fight about. I do remember sitting in the backseat of our Buick Regal and seeing them holding hands on the frontseat armrest.
For years, my Dad has always gone to bed first, and he always kisses her goodnight first. Sometimes, she'll pull back and say, "Don't kiss me! I'll be there in a minute!" For some reason, I always find that funny, the way she snaps "Don't kiss me!"
For a long time now, they have a standing Friday night date, dinner and a movie. Now that I am deep in the child-raising years, I think of them on Friday nights and I'm so jealous. But I know that they did their time, they paid their dues. They waited many years to have their Friday nights to themselves.
I hope to get there myself one day!