The Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on February 24th.

You would have thought they were getting married; they were that excited! My mother bought a new outfit and then set about losing five pounds so that it would “fit better.” Dad bought a dapper new suit. Cakes and flowers were ordered, a reception planned, and announcements put in the paper.

Mom and Dad, their four children and in-laws, and their nine grand-children met at the Mandarin for a family dinner celebration on Friday. An incredible meal was enjoyed by all, especially the two teen-aged boys in the party, who were doubly appreciative of the concept of “all you can eat.” Towards the end of the meal, our very conscientious waiter dropped his professional demeanour for one moment as he passed my nephew with an armload of dirty dishes and commented, “Oh, I see you’re slowing down over there.” We laughed uproariously, and that wasn’t the only time. My father stood up and delivered a few heartfelt words about how he and Mom were so happy to share their special occasion with  family and how they hoped they would have many more anniversaries to celebrate together. We presented them with a travel voucher to commemorate the occasion. Mom and Dad have always wanted to travel by train to Halifax to see Pier 21. Both of them arrived there as children when they came to Canada from Holland on converted troop ships. 

Children of Dutch immigrants who came to Canada after the end of World War Two, my parents endured many hardships and challenges in their younger years. Neither one of them had the opportunity to finish elementary school. They went to work quickly so that they could help to support their large families. Mom and Dad met through their church’s Young People’s Society.  My mother was too young to date my dad, who was almost six years older. He waited, and they were married when my mother reached the ripe old age of eighteen. I was their first child, and I had arrived by the time they had been married for ten long months. Jim and Wendy followed quickly. By the time she was 22, Mom had three small children to tend to. My brother Collin came along several years after that. Life was not always easy for this couple. We kids caused all of the typical stresses and exasperation that kids are prone to cause, and we had arguments with our parents. The most amazing part is, I never once saw Mom and Dad have an argument with each other. Impatient times, perhaps. But never a snide comment or snappish retort.

Yesterday, my parents dressed in their wedding best for their Open House. The reception was held at their church. Before the crowds spilled in, my parents sat down to watch the slide show of old pictures that my daughters had put together for them, set to music composed and recorded by my younger brother. Mom remarked with great hilarity on the changes in her hairstyle over the years. She laughed often through the whole thing. My dad had a quieter response, and his eyes were just a little red at the end of it.

Mom had her wedding dress and album on display. Seldom-seen relatives and old friends and neighbours poured into the room. Mom and Dad were delighted to see all of them, as were we. A lovely afternoon of hugging and catching up was enjoyed by all. It didn’t end there. Several party-goers drifted over to Mom and Dad’s home to continue the celebration there. After everyone was gone, my brother, his wife and I still found ourselves there. Mom and Dad were still chipper at the late hour. Mom said she never wanted the day to end. She was up to her eyeballs in unopened cards, gorgeous spring bouquets, dirty cake plates, and a mountain of veggies. I honestly think she would have welcomed the opportunity to do the whole day over again.

Sadly, people like my parents are becoming more and more rare as time progresses. The day may come when people don’t even bother to make a life-time committment any more. So, it was a very big deal, this milestone anniversary–as well it should be. How common is it to find a couple married for half a century in this day and age?