Last Saturday, the 20th of February, my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. It wasn’t the celebration that we had planned. Because of the pandemic restrictions due to the China virus, we decided to have a simple celebration – dinner with our daughter and her son – and save the party with family and friends for another time. But even that simple meal in a nice local restaurant wasn’t to be, for this was the week of the once in a generation winter storm in Texas. Everything was frozen. There was no power in many places including our home. In addition, our own home had been without running water for over a week, since our rain water collection system had frozen even with all the storm preparations that we had made.
But that horrific winter storm wasn’t what would have canceled our anniversary. The circumstances which would have led to the cancelation actually happened quite a few years before. My husband had retired from his job of over 38 years in 1990. During the time of his employment my husband had risen from the position of electrical engineer to a mid-level manager who had more than 50 people under his employ and a very profitable manufacturing line to oversee. Leaving his place of employment where so many people were responsible to my husband was a difficult transition for him.
It was an even more difficult transition for me, because I had managed our household with all the attendant tasks that the job requires for all the time that my husband was working during our marriage. I was the “boss” here and didn’t like for anyone to interfere with my work or disrupt my schedule. But now this extra person was under foot – right in the middle of my domain and looking for someone to tell what to do. I was determined that person wouldn’t be me.
As the days, weeks and months passed during that first year of my husband’s retirement, I learned that I didn’t load the dishwasher correctly; I vacuumed too often and talked on the phone to my friends a little too loudly, too long and way too often. As a way of escaping the criticism and frequent requests to fulfill the next task he had for me, I tried to spend a lot of time outdoors just to get away and give each of us some space. Our property was pretty rough looking – we had had the home built the previous year on a wild, tree filled acreage lot five or so miles outside the city. The property had been a place where the other building contractors had left debris for as long as the subdivision had been in existence. There were piles of dirt and rocks and assorted trash items like children’s broken toys, bed springs and the like strewn about, especially in the front yard.
I planned to make an iris garden in the front yard with the aim of having beautiful flowers and cleaning up the mess others had left for us. My painting friends were always thinning out their iris plantings and giving me their extras, but I didn’t have a good place to plant them. The front yard would be a perfect place, if I leveled out the piles of rock, cut down a few small elm trees and spread some dirt. I worked in the area everyday. My goal was to move five wheelbarrows of debris and dirt each day, which I did faithfully. Eventually the area was ready to move my iris.
One day during this process I needed something retrieved from the barn which was across the way (through the woods) from our home. I was feeling pretty low at the time, as I thought that my husband and my relationship would soon be over. We had been married almost 30 years, but at no time in those years had we been so at odds with one another as we were since his retirement. I was convinced that my husband, who occasionally saw his old friends from work as his only outside activity, would soon be telling me that he was moving out, that our marriage was over. I knew that I could not be his only source of entertainment and had told him so, and I certainly could not replace all the folks whom he previously “bossed around”.
I walked over through the woods to the barn and noticed that next to the barn was the 1969 Chevelle that Larry and I had dated in so many years before. My husband couldn’t bear to part with the car, as it was his first “new” car. Then the thought struck me, as though God had needed to remind me – my husband wasn’t leaving for “greener and more peaceful pastures”. I was one of those “old things” that he had had so long that parting with it was unbearable. My “job” was secure. I retrieved what I wanted from the barn and returned home. Over the next weeks and months our relationship improved.
That Saturday during that Texas hundred year storm we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Instead of the nice restaurant where we had planned to eat for our anniversary, my husband and I celebrated by sitting in front of the fireplace adding logs, as the old ones burned down, trying to stay warm in our cold home and eating Hebrew National hot dogs and Bush’s baked beans that we had cooked in the fire. What a memorable time that marked 50 years together!