Key to Marriage: Staying Alive

By T.J. Simers

We were scheduled to fly to New York and then train into Washington D.C. to celebrate 50 years of marriage, but we ran into a problem: We’ve gotten too old.

We both turned 72 recently, and I don’t know if you know this, but they affix a target to your back at that point making it easier for muggers and others to prey on senior citizens like my wife

We talked about it, and I didn’t think it would be a good look just for me to go and celebrate.

We drove to Arizona to be with the kids and grandkids. She told our daughters no parties, knowing who would have to clean up and wash the dishes, and I know how tired I am after 50 years of marriage, so I understood.

When we arrived in Arizona, the son-in-law told us to get in the car. He carries a gun, you know, and I thought this was how it was going to end after making so much fun of him for being a Grocery Store Bagger.

I was right, too, the lug driving us to a church, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been told if I go in there, I’ll be struck dead.

We entered a side door leading into a church hall to find our kids and grandkids cheering for us. I know it’s harder for us to walk these days but a standing ovation for walking into the room without falling was a bit much.

But that’s all who was there, the kids and grandkids. I guess Plaschke couldn’t make it.

They had one table in the middle of the room all decorated, and pictures of the wife and I around the room, some blown up, I presume, to check if the young people pictured were really my wife and I some 50 years ago. I could see now why I had fallen for her.

This was going to be a party, a party only for the people who would not have been here had I not picked up the wife more than five decades ago.

The most important thing to stay married 50 years, of course, is stay alive. I had gone into the Army as a draftee during the Vietnam era and had come so close to fighting in Vietnam, whatever that distance is between Fort Ord, Ca and Vietnam.

I had fallen asleep at the wheel, waking up while running over those little metal reflectors in the grass to separate highways. And remained alive. I had interviewed Jeff Kent countless times, Barry Bonds as well and remained alive. I had eaten a tuna casserole made by my mother-in-law, and I can’t swear that’s what killed my father-in-law, he did die.

I was explaining this to the Grocery Store Bagger. Nineteen years ago, we ran his picture in the Times standing next to my daughter, who was in a wedding dress. Twelve years after the picture ran, the Times’ lawyers on behalf of the Times’ top two editors, complained to a jury that my son-in-law’s picture had been in the newspaper.

Amazingly, he’ still in the picture, and I’m not complaining because we have four outstanding granddaughters. One of them had us hold up “bride” and “groom” signs while she quizzed us about who was the best kisser? I held up “groom,” and she held up “bride,” and it was so many years ago how is anyone supposed to remember?

We were quizzed about the price of gas in 1972 when we were married (34 cents a gallon), won the not-so-newly-wed game over the bagger and daughter and then they played our favorite song from our courting days. Too mushy to repeat here.

Then our 17-year-old surprised us by announcing she had gone online that morning and had been anointed a minister so she could marry us again. That was before the minister put on a dirty dancing exhibition for the entire family, and I guess it won’t be long before she goes off to college and pays for it by appearing at a local strip joint, billed as the “Rev.”

We all danced some more, the music getting louder and louder and I even stood up on occasion and wiggled. We cut a cake together, sat down again thank heavens and listened to one of our daughters read a poem she had written. Good stuff.

It was the perfect party with the perfect partygoers and the perfect companion.

Now when the bagger and daughter celebrate their 50th, my wife will be 103 and I hope she brings the whole family and stops by the cemetery for a visit.


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