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Friday, August 8, 2014

Fifty Of The Best Years Ever

Five decades ago
"The first fifty years of marriage are the hardest," someone once quipped.

If that is so, Alma Jean and I, wed in the chapel at Lancaster Mennonite High School (Alma Jean's alma mater) August 8, 1964, have lots to be thankful for. Not only have we made it, but the five decades we've spent together have been without a doubt the best years of our lives.

We had officially announced our engagement on Valentine's Day of that year, with a small printed card with two intertwining hearts and these words we had composed:

two hearts
warmed by breath of God's own love
have met to melt into one

Looking back, I'm not sure that degree of fusion is possible,  or even desirable, but our union has been strong, enduring and satisfying. We would each do it all over again.

Years later Alma Jean made me a homemade Valentine-shaped card on which she pasted the following poem by an unknown author, called "Settling In", a piece she had found in an old magazine:

I have settled into love
The way that houses settle
     Plaster slightly cracked
     Floors a little tilted
But still this love is home.

It's really rather sweet
A kind of fire-in-the-fireplace love
     Charred a little
     Singed from time to time
But still this love burns strong.

I do not know. Maybe this is all
That I will ever have
A sort of old house, slow fire love,
But it gives me such pleasure
That I do not long for Roman candles.

For in the joining, in the sweetness,
In the holding of our love
There is no sense of strangeness,
There is no dislocation,
For no matter where we are
If we're together, it is home.

And look, my dear, just over there--
I think I see a Roman candle!

This card, one of my prized possessions, expresses some of the joy I feel in being together all these years. Alma Jean is my beloved "bird in the hand", a blessing without price. If I had another fifty years, I would choose her as my companion all over again.

One way we are celebrating our fiftieth is by flying to Portland, Oregon, where we spent the night at a Rodeway Inn. Today we drive to near Salem, where we spent two good years while I was interim principal at Western Mennonite School from 1972-74. The classes of '72, '73 and '74 are having a forty year reunion August 8-10 and have invited us to join them for the occasion.

We hope that's a good start for the next blessed chapter of our lives!

Before and after? With friends near Salem, 8/8/14

photo by Dora Ivanitsky

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