Susan and I were married when I was 21 years old, and Susan was 20 years old. When we were 19 we decided to get married, and despite initial objections from our parents that we were too young, we made the leap. I suspect the odds of this happening -- of this lasting relationship and now long life -- were very slight. We have beat those odds in so many ways, and so much has changed.
A lot of detail about our -- Susan and my -- life and love -- documented in the book, and I do encourage you to purchase it. Just click here. I want now though to reflect on some of the lovely times that helped build our and still sustains our love. So here, in no particular order, are some lovely times:
- Watching the Ducks. Our euphemism for going to the park in Houston for some heavy make-out time together while we were dating back in 1965-1966.
- Sassy Sue. Our first dog. We were married only six-months when we walked into a pet store in a shopping strip-mall in El Paso. The sales clerk looks at us and says: “Get her a dog or she we will want a baby.” Sassy Sue became our first dog and we have since fallen in love with dogs. Lucky and Maddie the last two each lasted 16 and 18 years – about 34 of our 48 years. Sparky is our current family member.
- Camping. It took us a long time to be financially secure, especially during the time I was working for Ralph Nader in the 70’s. We would go camping for our vacations because that is all we could afford. Our kids later told us they thought we loved to camp and were shocked to understand that it was a necessity not a choice. And yet they were lovely times. Especially on that trip to Ocracoke Island when each of the four of us caught a fish. Rachael, our daughter, was only 4 years old.
- Oh No! While it seems like yesterday, it was 31 years ago: our famous “Oh No!” party. It was to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We were reflecting on the consensus reaction to our engagement announcement. “Oh No! I can’t believe they are going to get married” We printed t-shirts with the slogans and held a contest for other “Oh No!” moments in people’s lives
- Grandchildren. We now have four of them, and they are growing up. The youngest is about to turn 14, and the oldest in 19 and in college. Did I tell you -- yes I did -- that Susan and I got engaged when we were 19? Oy vey!
- Uncertainty: I look back and wonder sometimes how reckless we were to get married so young. Still in college, no life-career set yet and no clarity on how to make a living. Yet we made the leap, and started a new journey, together. Our life together seems to have an arc of brilliant moments of uncertainty through which we navigate. It was in our 34th year of marriage that Susan's breast cancer and The Actual Dance took place. We thought the story was gong to end then, or at least I did (read the book). Today, we face new uncertainty, as I face a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer's. I tend to forget things, usually little things now like what happened yesterday and how to get to the dentist office. (Thank goodness for Waze.) And yet, we are finding new ways to make even this journey meaningful.
In the poem “US” I say that love is when our essence became entwined. This does not happen instantaneously like a bolt of lightning. (That feeling is usually something else!) Rather, it is a process of engagement and growing (old) together. It will start during the courting, and then love becomes its own thing. It grows bigger and deeper and the connection of our souls blend into one, each an equal half of our whole. Even at 56 years, we are still becoming. New challenges, new experiences and perhaps a deeper engagement with the reality of the fragility of being, and even, maybe, that The Actual Dance is a life long ritual. We always stand in the center of an existential dance floor, swaying to the music of our hearts, surrounded by, among others, generations before us and generations yet to come.