Years ago, when my daughter was in the second grade, she was required to learn her math facts, and to take tests on them for not just accuracy but also for speed. Because of this, she can quickly do simple computations in her head, as skill necessary, we were told, for doing more complicated math. I found myself thinking of this recently as our family begins to celebrate the fiftieth wedding anniversary of my mother and father in law. They were married on a day that is itself a “math fact,” as they were married on August 8, 1964. One could write the date as 8.8.64, noting that eight times eight is sixty four. As my mother in law often said, there is now no excuse for forgetting their anniversary.
It seems that making it to one’s 50th anniversary (or beyond) involves elements of luck and of perseverance, and my in-laws have both. They are lucky in that they were able to live into their seventies, something that many people don’t get to do. My own parents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary several years ago, but the celebration was muted by the realization that my younger sister would not make it to even her eighth anniversary. Reaching this milestone also involves perseverance, as one must recognize the commitment one has made to a spouse, and realize that there will not only be wonderful days, but also difficult days. My in-laws saw four children grow to adulthood, but also faced trials along the way. One of them faced cancer and they dealt with a car accident that left their youngest child in a coma for several weeks. She has since recovered; the last I heard, she took a trip to California this summer.
In-laws are interesting, in that they can love you in ways your parents were never able. While it is a parent’s job to guide a child into adulthood, often criticizing along the way, it is an in-law’s job to love that child unconditionally right from the start. I felt only instant acceptance from my in-laws, who quickly got me hooked on their favorite books and laughed with me about my crazy Italian family that seemed to be the model for a family described by one of their favorite authors. Still, as welcoming as they were, it was years before I felt comfortable calling them “mom” and “dad,” as those titled seemed to be reserved for my own parents.
In the end, I am most grateful for the fact that they raised my own husband to be someone with whom I can imagine spending 50 years. They passed important values and faith on to their children, making him a person that is both honest and kind, a person with whom I can be proud to associate. I sometimes still wonder what the secret is to making it to such a milestone anniversary, especially when stress from work and children constantly resides on the fringes of consciousness. Does anyone who has been married a long time have any advice for those of us who have been married for shorter time periods? We have almost 30 years to go before we will be celebrating our golden anniversary, and I am determined to be at that celebration.
This will be a long weekend of celebrating, and in the end, I hope that my mother and father in law look back on 50 years well lived. As the celebrations unfold, I plan on approaching them with warm hugs and the words that took me so long to say; “Happy Anniversary, mom and dad.”