Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Golden Years

by Drew Martin
My parents just celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. It is a remarkable achievement; a stretch of time longer than some lifespans, careers and even whole eras such as communism in Eastern Europe. When I was getting a gift for my parents, the lady assisting me said she just celebrated her fifty-fifth wedding anniversary and some of her friends and relatives recently celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversaries. I asked her what the trick was and she said, "Staying out of each other's way." I thought perhaps this Yankee cynicism might actually be the secret ingredient to a sustained marriage but what I realized on Sunday at my parents' celebratory luncheon was that it was quite the opposite. My brother gave a lovely speech and my mother worked the room but it was my father's heart-felt speech that touched me the most, as he spoke of my mother as his best friend and how she opened him up to the world of traveling, language and the arts. My parents live ten miles from me but we drove four hundred miles to the event that took place at the Williamsburg Inn in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, where they met, married and first lived together. The trip to Virginia is a painfully long drive but feels instinctual, like the migration of birds. If my parents' fifty years of marriage played out with a linear narrative of film or a novel, the celebration, like any reflective event, was like a big canvas; a mural of their life, which the kind words of the speeches and the presence of friends and relatives flattened in that moment to be viewed in totality.