Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

My parents are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary tomorrow. I am here in Milwaukee at my brother's. Each of their children has been asked to "say a few words" in honor of the occasion. As Jonathan and I discussed it, all I could think of were either excruciatingly painful memories or ridiculing, slightly disdainful reminiscences. My childhood was not what I would call a happy one. Growing up gay in a household that veered so exaggeratedly to the right that it's amazing the whole thing didn't tip over, I lived in fear that my minister father would damn me to eternal hellfire. I suffered from being never understood, never nurtured in ways in which I needed to be nurtured, never valued or treasured for who I was. Hardly appropriate material for such an occasion.

I finally decided that I was just going to turn the whole thing into a big joke. I was pretty surprised when I sat down at my computer to write it out and this came out instead:

When my paternal grandparents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary twenty-eight years ago, I remember thinking to myself, jeez, are these people OLD! Just yesterday I sat in a restaurant with my parents and my niece, telling Laura stories about Miss Lisius, the Jewel Tea man, and Frieda’s heroic efforts in the summer of 1973; my beloved grandmother who would be ninety-nine if she were with us today. These and so many other memories, be they vignettes or monumental events, have long since taken their place in our family lore. I imagined myself in Laura’s shoes, listening to these stories that occurred years before she was even born. She was probably thinking to herself: jeez, are these people OLD!
For a person who has been thirty-five for quite some time now, I find it hard to wrap my mind around the passage of time. I see my mother and father in front of me today and I am amazed that they have aged at all, since in essence they are very much the same people they have always been, the same parents that I have loved all these years. Those incremental changes from week to week that one barely notices one’s self appear more jarring to me since we only see each other a few times a year. In my mind’s eye we are all still the same as we were in 1971. Reading over some of Dad’s old Christmas letters yesterday (whose parenthetical glories we all remember with such… strong feelings), I was struck by how clearly our destinies were written even then. Those images were sketched very early, but the etching of all of these age lines has rendered those drawings deeper and more subtle with the passage of time.
So today we not only celebrate fifty years of Ted and Jane’s married life, but we also acknowledge all the past experiences that formed us and them. We laugh, cry and ruminate over memories that both delight and haunt us. And we bow before the very passage of time itself. I am in wonder and awe that these two very different people have shared such a rich lifetime, that they created and shaped the lives of five very different children, that they now delight in a new generation of their children’s children. (Sorry to let you down on that one, but some of my other siblings have more than made up for that!)
Time passes. There’s no escaping that. But perhaps it’s not something we should even attempt to escape. Without the passage of time our lives would have no perspective. Without the passage of time we would have no memories to treasure. Without the passage of time, our relationships would not evolve, mature and deepen. And without the passage of time we would not be here celebrating our love for these two people and their shared lifetime of love.

I guess I'm going to live through this after all!

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Blogger AndrewGoesBroadway said...

This was a very brave post. Hats off to you for putting it out there. What you write about the passing of time is poignant and moving. I don't know if I will ever ADMIT to the passing of time, much less appreciate it, be thankful for it.

July 23, 2007 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Counterleben said...

And hats off to me for delivering my little spiel to a room full of Missouri Synod Lutherans!

July 31, 2007 at 8:47 PM  

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