My spouse, Bill, and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary yesterday. It was not the celebration we had initially planned due to travel restrictions, and our caution, but we made the day meaningful and joyful. Our initial plans had been to return to the cathedral in Liverpool, England, where Bill’s parents had married. We had considered renewing our vows in the small chapel inside the enormous cathedral where their ceremony had taken place. At least, that was my idea. Bill, not being a sentimental guy said, “Sure, we can hang out there a while.” But the pandemic restrictions put a stop to that idea – and to air travel in general – so we have given our summer days of celebration a different take. Mostly, hiking and visiting the areas of this state (Washington) that we vacationed in during the early years of our marriage. It has been a wonderful year so far, culminating in a joyous day yesterday.
Our anniversary dinner last night was take-out from one of our favorite Seattle restaurants – Kabul. This restaurant opened in 1992 and we were some of its first customers. Over the years we have shared this restaurant with many friends and a few relatives; all have thoroughly enjoyed the meals. As Bill and I were eating dinner, we talked about partnership, love, parenting, friendship, and all that we have experienced in that time. The realization that more time is behind us than ahead of us brought our struggles and triumphs into keen focus. At times, the struggles seemed almost insurmountable – especially the problems caused by my sisters and mom – but somehow we moved beyond them. Our triumphs far out-weigh any problems we tackled over the years; our work, our friendships, and our child. We are the very proud parents of a remarkable, talented, kind, thoughtful and brave son. Our son is transitioning from female to male and is working through all that necessitates with intelligence, patience, and courage. We have a niece we feel very close to, and she is very supportive of our son.
But mostly, we talked about our years together. Hiking, travel, work, and music – those are the defining activities of our life together. I don’t know of any day in our lives where music wasn’t involved. Music of all types. One of my strongest memories is of our time in New Orleans (pre-Katrina) where we had spent one very long day at the Jazz and Heritage Festival, capped off with a visit to the Maple Leaf Tavern. The Neville Brothers played that evening. We walked back to our friends’ house where we were staying as the sun came up and window shades pulled down – music in our heads, another person or two on the sidewalk, a soft cooling breeze that cut the humidity of a steamy, memorable night.
Both Bill and I came from lives of extreme poverty – his of economic poverty and mine a poverty of love. Kindness wasn’t shown in the family I came from so I learned it along the way. Mistakes were more numerous to count but the lessons were just as plentiful. Of all I have learned, this is most important – kindness is easy. It is easier than fighting back, than sharp words, easier than not forgiving. All that takes energy. Energy that otherwise could be given to calming down, using gentle humor, loving, and forgiving. Forgive yourself and your partner because to be human is to make mistakes. Being human is being thoughtless at times – thoughtless, inconsiderate, confused, and confusing. But a kind word, or a gentle silence if a word won’t come, should be our default condition. After all, it’s simply easier to be kind.
I wish you a lifetime of good friendship, good food, and all the music your head can hold.