Fifty or bust

Published 2:10 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Half a century, five decades, fifty years and 18,250 days together, that is what a 50th wedding anniversary represents on a time scale.

For some, it’s a long arduous journey and for others it’s a flash, but either path still ends with a couple eating cake, surrounded by friends and family and being praised for sticking it out during all the ups and downs of marital life.

It is a feat many in our culture will not experience.

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Weddings in our days are equal to divorces and for many the math can not add up. Even in my case, if I were able to add marriage one to marriage two, I could technically be married for fifty years, but not to the same person. Does that count? Apparently not.

This past week, I have had fifty on the brain.

This past week my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary. For the children this means we should make something special out of this monumental achievement. It means pouring through hundreds of photos and reliving years of history that had been set aside due to a busy life schedule.

First, just a quick glimpse of the year in which my parents sealed the deal. In 1961: John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President of the United States; the Bay of Pigs in Cuba happened after Fidel Castro declared Communism; the construction of the Berlin Wall begins; Kennedy asks Congress for $531 million to put a man on the moon; Kennedy also encourages Americans to build bomb shelters (yikes) and the first direct US Military involvement in Vietnam occurred.

Looking back, because I know how the rest of the story ends, the year had some very important security issues brewing. Cuba was looming, the fear of nuclear attacks and both the Berlin wall and Vietnam were just on the radar of what would be.

The times, they have changed. Did I mention gasoline was 27 cents a gallon? The cost of a home averaged at $12,500 and a new car went for $2,850. All that sounds pretty good until you take in consideration the average income per year was around $5,300. 

You can really feel the age of the time by the movies and the music; Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” debuted at number one in 1961. Some of the popular hits were: Floyd Cramer’s  “On the Rebound,” Bobby Darin’s “You must have been a Beautiful Baby,” Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles, “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles, “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline, “Where the Boys Are” by Connie Francis, “Exodus” by Ferrante and Teicher, “Blue Moon” by the Marcels and “At Last” by Etta James.

Popular movies in 1961 were: “The Guns of Navarone,” “West Side Story,” “The Absent-minded Professor,” “The Parent Trap” (with Haley Mills), “101 Dalmatians” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

On the tube, and yes it was a tube television and most likely in black and white, were great shows like “Wagon Train,” “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “Perry Mason,” “Andy Griffith,” “Twilight Zone,” “Candid Camera,” “My Three Sons” and the all important “Red Skelton Show.”

The Red Skelton show played a central part of my parents’ marriage ceremony.

It took knocking on a couple of preacher’s doors before my parents, Joe and Mary Jim along with their partners in crime, his sister Wanda and her husband Eulas, found the Rev. Moore who agreed to marry them. He had to first kick the kids off the television in the front room. Those kids were not happy because the “Red Skelton Show” was on and in those days, you didn’t have repeats, recorders, or Dvr’s. When you missed it the first time, it was gone.

Thankfully, for those poor children of 1961, they can buy the whole set of Red Skelton’s series on Dvd’s or download it onto their computer.

There was no fancy wedding. Not like the mentality of today, where couples feel the need to over spend their own or their parent’s hard earned money just so they can seal the deal.

This “quickie wedding” produced two children and five grandchildren so their legacy will continue on — minus the white fancy wedding dress, the organ music, the flowers, and the wedding cake.

It only proves that the bigger and more expensive ceremony may not guarantee a 50th wedding anniversary in the future.

I can safely say, I have witnessed dozens and dozens of “big” weddings that produced only great “divorces.”

Young lovers need to focus on the future of their relationship rather than the concentrating on the color of the napkins.

As my twins wondered why we were going to the trouble of having a party, I assured them, they may not have to throw a 50th party for me since I will be in my late eighties and the stress that all my children cause me now may guarantee that I might not make it. But, just in case I do, I want to make a big deal of it. Carl and I plan to have a honeymoon trip to follow the anniversary celebrations (maybe on a three wheel motorcycle), heading into the sunset on our way to Vegas, baby.

I know many couples who have reached higher milestones such as 60th wedding anniversaries and so on, but knowing the history of my own parents, believe me this is a huge achievement and one that deserves praise. My father’s health has created a difficult journey ever since he was a young man. He was disabled at the young age of 48, which is what I am today. I am just amazed he is still on this earth to reach 2011.

For all the couples who have mountains to climb, whether physical, emotional, or actual geographical mountains, just know that your reward will be a pat on the back, some beautiful cards and well wishes, thoughtful gifts, and a delicious, decorated cake. Plus, the satisfaction of achieving something that is a rare event in these difficult days of staying together.

Kudos to Joe and Bo. They both deserve a trophy for outstanding “putting up with each other” for fifty long years. I am not sure it was “happily ever after,” no one really gets that stamped ending. But I will take “ever after” with moments of happiness any day.

Let’s just take them one year at a time.

About My Hometown

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached via Face Book at My Hometown Column. Become a fan today.