Occasionally, while walking with a person from one part of the hospital to another, I ask, “How long have you been together?”
It’s a way to help the person think. Most often, their loved one is on the way into the heart catheterization lab, or to CT, or to ICU. In that moment, their mind is focused on the crisis. I want to invite them to use other parts of their mind and heart.
“Fifty years this June,” I heard recently. “Sixty-nine years last October.” “Sixty-three years.”
I smile. I acknowledge the significance of the time. And starting today, I’ll emend what I say by one year, “We’re just getting started. We’re only at thirty-eight years.” :
The person and I laugh. We talk a little about their relationship. We acknowledge that it’s been a long time but it doesn’t feel like a long time. It feels like we are just getting started.
I think that’s because relationships are always just getting started. We’re walking into the new day, the new trial, the new event knowing that we haven’t done this day before. We draw on the reserves and the experiences and the insights we’ve built.
For Nancy and me, it’s a different getting started than happened on March 12, 1983 when two people who hadn’t really spent much time together (and none for the previous two months) stood in front of Rev. Ronald MacDonald and said, “we do.” We’ve been through many events, many changes, a few crises, several losses, many rejoices, and hours and hours of just hanging out. We think less in terms of bucket lists and more in terms of being together wherever. We often are pretty sure that our story isn’t very interesting, not compared to exciting people. But we’re pretty interested in our story.
The picture above is our last restaurant meal out before restaurants closed in Fort Wayne, our anniversary meal a day late. Like all of us, we have our own story of the year, which includes but is not limited to Nancy watching me head to the hospital three days a week. It was a pretty scary thing for her. And I’m grateful for her courageous support.
Marriage is often that kind of courage. Watching each other do their work. Talking to God on their behalf. And knowing that hanging out is sometimes the most awesome thing to do. Even for decades at a time.