A half a century is a long time. But boy does it pass swiftly.
Betsy and Mike
Betsy and I met in math class at Gonzaga 52 years ago when, as a super senior having to fulfill a freshman math requirement, I came to the first day of class, spotted the blond young sophomore and took the seat behind her. We celebrate 50 years of marriage this week. And we'll take time to remember all that has transpired over five decades.
"All that has transpired" includes the son and two daughters, as well as eight grandchildren, who will all join us over Labor Day weekend for a family celebration of our anniversary. One daughter is no longer with us but she will be in Betsy and my thoughts as we mark 50 years.
Amusingly, it was a statistics class that I chose to pick up those math-requirement hours so I've often wondered: what are the odds that the coed I sat behind would turn out to be "the one." We were engaged three months after we completed that class, and married a year later in August of 1966.
One of my early romantic outreaches was one I've shared with readers of the Harp. It was my love affair with a '55 T-Bird, a sleek aqua and white machine then almost 10 years old in which I taught Betsy how to drive a stick shift. I mused in the column that she was so excited sitting behind the wheel that I wasn't certain even now if she first fell in love with the car or the guy.
A marriage gets stronger when a couple shares pain as well as pleasure and so it was when the pleasure of the birth of our third child turned to the pain of her being taken by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Sarah Elizabeth, born four days before Christmas in 1973, gave a special meaning to that holiday season. As I wrote about Sarah in an earlier Harp, her brother and sister would sit on the couch and push as close as possible, looking on with smiling fascination while mom held or fed the baby. Two months to the day later, we found he dead in her crib.
The loss of our baby to "crib death" came to be a bonding thing both during and after the pain. After drawing support from the SIDS medical and family community, we gave back as active in the SIDS Foundation, which I served as state president while Betsy did most of the work of our involvement helping new SIDS parents work through their grief.
The pain of Sarah's loss found a counterpoint two years later with the excitement of the arrival of Eileen, who bore the burden of being the "subsequent child," a description hung by psychologists on children born following the death of a sibling.
Over the coming years, three children grew through teen-age years to adulthood and headed off to college or marriage.
It was four years ago that it came time to move from the house that, over the four decades it was home, had been where three children grew to adulthood and where their laughter and tears, and those of their children, echoed from walls and windows that were always decorated by Betsy for the appropriate holidays.
And so it was that as we watched, the house was emptied of the furnishings, the closets emptied of decorations and toys our voices began to echo through the empty rooms.
The empty spot by the front French doors after movers had cleared the area made it harder to picture the Christmas tree that occupied the spot each holiday season, to be surrounded by excited children, then in addition by their children. And the absence of the sofa and chairs made it difficult to recall the candy-filled plastic Easter eggs that were inevitably hidden in and around them.
As we returned for a final check of the now-empty house, with its unfamiliar echoes as we moved through each room, an important reality for us emerged that I noted in a Harp I wrote son thereafter about the house.
It was that for us, and for all those making large life changes, it was and is important to remember that the memories don't remain behind in the place where they were made. Rather they travel with us, an essential part of the experiences we gather and carry through the years. Memories to be recalled and savored.
Forever young, as is the memory of each new experience, now and in years to come.