Four decades isn’t very long.

I took a knee forty years ago tomorrow.

Nancy and I drove to northern Wisconsin where my family had a mobile home on land that had been in the family since the late 1800s. We walked to a mosquito-infested cemetery on a corner of that land, and I introduced her to my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members. We walked back to a small cabin by the mobile home, I got the ring out of a old family toybox, and I somehow, in my own inarticulate way, asked if we could be married.

We’d had our first official date three weeks earlier, had decided the week before that to get married.

We do things our way, acutely aware that it’s different, often wondering if that’s okay. In fact, always wondering if it’s okay.

It comes from never being the cool kids.

But here’s what I think may be true, after forty years.

  • There aren’t any cool kids.
  • Most people wonder what people think.
  • There’s no absolute standard of what is romantic, of what love is supposed to look like.
  • After four decades there are still things that you won’t know.
  • People who have been married for 56 years still think it’s too short, particularly when they are watching the one they love dying.
  • Days are, apparently, much longer than years.
  • Ordinary life is actually pretty extraordinary.
  • No one actually marries up or down. (That’s just a weird way of talking).
  • Going to discount grocery stores counts as a date. So does not having a date night.

There are more family members in that corner cemetery than there were forty years ago tomorrow. And in other cemeteries we know. We’re the old people now. We’ve made a lot of decisions since then. We’ve moved some. Cried some. Laughed more. We’re still figuring out what we want to be when we grow up. We still love our kids more and more.

And we love each other.

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