Thursday, June 17, 2010

18,396,000 minutes

I was 16 the year we had it printed on the backs of t-shirts, their motto for marriage advertised on our shoulders: “50 years… It’s a Very Dangerous Year”.

We anticipated their laugher as they opened the door, children and grandchildren all gathered to pay tribute to this founding couple that slathered their love upon us as a postscript to their fairy-tale adoration. 50 years, side by side, surviving early years with only sweet goals to sip on and distant dreams to wrap around their shoulders.  50 years of marriage, of compromise, of raising children, starting businesses, fighting for Israel, finding faith, and striving for a better world, done with arms linked and smiles shared.

The motto began on their first anniversary; my grandmother looking seriously into my grandfather’s eyes and telling him, “Chuck, listen.  A lot of people get divorced the first year of marriage.  We have to be very careful.  It’s a very dangerous year.”

And so it goes. Fifty years later, decades of dangerous years combined to sum a marriage filled with respect, woven with appreciation, and sprinkled with laughter.

Today is my parent’s 35 wedding anniversary.

No longer a teenager viewing her grandparent’s 50 years like a distant painting on the wall, this momentous occasion strikes me from within.  This is a marriage I have lived with, taken notes on, leaned up against, confidence with its staying power and deep roots.  This is a partnership that planted my seeds and set about on the task of daily watering, pep talks, and hands extended.  I revel in the celebration, searching for a word-built trophy that I can offer, digging for adequate gratitude that equals 35 years. 

35 years.  12,775 days from “I do” to the glasses we raise in honor today.  12,775 days dancing with each other, caressing childhood scars and kissing the skinned knees of life. 12,775 days living under the same roof, living with uncertainty, living with anticipation, living under the weight of a family that rested at their feet.  12,775 days written on scraps of time, errands crossed off the list, dishes rinsed and soft goodnight kisses.  12,755 days cataloguing children’s births, graduations, spoons laced with batter and band-aids applied to insecurities. 

306,600 hours lived with rings around their fingers and devotion encircling their souls.  306,600 hours sautéed with tears, with worries, with dark threats of quicksand and locked doors. Hours obeying their commandments: “Never go to bed angry.” “Marriage takes work.” “Marriage is forever.” 306,600 hours finding laughter in the puddles and catching stolen kisses tossed across a room.  Hours rotating support with love, balm with reality.  Hours of nicknames and private jokes, Hebrew blessings and candles lit. 306,600 hours incorporating faith into daily actions and rituals into fulfillment. Hours harvesting friendships and sipping calm from the dock. 18,396,000 minutes of give and take, propping each other up, nursing through sickness and toasting in joy.  Minutes mixed with doubts and fears, mistakes, falters, and sharp words.  Minutes stirred with commitment and backed by faith; a faith in each other, a faith in their family, a faith in the enduring power built by steel love.

This marriage stands on the history of forever, balancing on 50-year legacies and “Till Death do us Part”.  Hours whispered in gratitude, tallied moments of praise and support, tastes of bliss whipped with steady devotion.

I was there for the Shabbos dinners, birthday candles, and shells collected on the beach.  I was there for the wounds of sarcasm and misplaced tolerance, witnessed silent apologies conveyed with soft caresses and forgiving eyes.  I was there for the ripening, for the process of two young kids testing out their footing and growing into their skin.  I heard the unspoken rules, the dictates of no matter what and ‘we’ll get through this’.  I listened for the whispered arguments behind bedroom doors and exhaled at their inevitable emergence side by side.  I waited anxiously, crossing off celebrations on calendars and marking heights on the wall, armed with knowledge of joint custody and cracks that rupture my definition of home. I held my breath at times, prepared to fight for the treasure of married parents, during those minutes of panic fueled by the immature perspective that equated arguments with endings.  I saved up the hours of beach walks, memories of kisses, cards exchanged and eager ‘I love you’s’ until my box overflowed, forcing me to abandon my post and relax in the promise of years to come. 

I stand in awe at these 35 years.  I stand in awe at the lives you each have built as you filled out your edges.  I stand with humility, looking out across the river of accomplishments, mitzvahs fulfilled, and lives improved.  I stand respectfully at the union you’ve etched and the partnership you adorn with vivid memories.  I stand in awe at all of the minutes that compose a life holding hands, and I bow with gratitude.  I stand with love at the portrait of two heroes casting light as an example of marriage, complete with lumpy parts and jagged hugs. I count my blessings as I take my seat, lucky to have a spot at your inner table.

Happy 35th Anniversary. 

Remember, It’s a very dangerous year. 

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