23.4.1966 - 23.4.2016
FIFTY YEARS TOGETHER
Is fifty years a long time? Perhaps, if you say it’s ‘half a century’ or take into account our biblically allotted lifespan of three score and ten. Maybe being married for fifty years has made the time pass more rapidly. Marriage has its own agenda and momentum; it demands commitment, faithfulness, and responsibility. Yet maybe it takes all of fifty married years to realise these requirements.
That day, April 23rd 1966 dawned damp and dull. With my Best Man and another friend we awoke with hangovers from the previous night’s excesses. I donned my £10 Burton’s suit and we staggered in my unsuitable brown suede shoes through Hull to Quarton’s, the florists, to collect the buttonholes for the guests. Memory does not serve me well. I can’t remember the full scope of what occurred in the registry office. I know people applauded and were stood around, I know we signed registers, and I know we went outside to be photographed in the garden.
The so-called honeymoon, following an embarrassing post-wedding buffet at Wendy’s parents’ house where we were going to live, got off to a bad start. I had booked a weekend in Scarborough, and checked the train timetable. It was all planned, or so I thought. But at Paragon Station the railway ticket office reminded me that I’d looked at the summer timetable, and as it was still April, the summer timetable had not yet started. There was no train to Scarborough to be had, so we went by bus. We felt pretty dumb, flecked with confetti, the conductress issuing affectionate ‘Aaah, bless..’ noises.
After ham and chips at the B&B we went out for a walk through Scarborough and a massive thunderstorm broke out. I wondered if it was some portentous comment on our future together. But here we are, half a century on, me 73, Wendy 69, with five decades of emotional highs and lows behind us. We knew poverty. I tried to be a businessman. I was a labourer. I was a printer, a hospital porter, a salesman, in fact there wasn’t much I didn’t do over 32 jobs. But we always had a warm roof over our heads, the love of a family, and were never hungry. We knew grief when my mother died suddenly aged 58. Then my father, then, in later years, Wendy’s parents.
The crowning moments of our togetherness were the birth of our daughter Sarah in October 1966, and our son Martin in November 1973. But the biggest, darkest tragedy was Sarah’s long struggle with cancer and her death on December 23 2012. This event has burned a hole in the tapestry of our marriage which can never be repaired.
So now what? Dare we hope for 60 years? And if so, what demands will the increasing blight of old age wreak upon us? All we can do now in our dotage is live for each day, accept what life offers, and, as ever, carry on loving one another. As the saying goes; every day is a bonus. Today is one of many.