It was December 16, 1972, It was bitter cold. Lee and I were just 20 years old. We had no clue.
There was no proposal really. We just kind of decided it was time, and began planning our wedding. It was the 70’s after all, so nothing conventional or traditional was going to do. However, we did have parents, and there were considerations to be made. Lee’s family was Catholic, mine Baptist. That was the least of our problems, but we tried to make compromises to make life easier for everyone. One of those decisions was to get married at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Cedar Falls. Thankfully, we had a very progressive Priest who allowed us to write our own vows and make our own plans (something that would NEVER happen today). We did have to attend Catholic marriage classes, but again, we got lucky and took them at the Catholic Student Center on College Hill.
My parents were active in their Valley View Baptist Church, and I’m sure they were disappointed that we did not get married there. As good Baptists, they kept that to themselves and didn’t make a fuss. However, they did have one request. They wanted us to go get some marriage counseling with their small town Pastor who was long on good intentions and short on any awareness of contemporary times. Trying to keep all parents happy, we agreed and went in to get our words of wisdom.
It was awkward to say the least. Pastor Harry was the epitome of everything we were trying not to become. To say he was “white bread” would be an understatement. His advice was classic old school. Lee and I have remembered it with a good chuckle all this time. “You know Jim” he said to me earnestly, as if Lee was not in the room, “Once in a while, a woman will feel a bit blue and grumpy. Just buy her a Coke and bring her some flowers, and that will make her happy.”
So with that bit of sage advice, we began our married life. Turns out marriage was a bit more complicated than that. But we were lucky. We had a foundation of love that, like a higher power, overcame the conflicts and failings of the human condition (and believe me, my failings were plentiful). It has been a life long learning process, and one that makes you a better person with each compromise, each acceptance, each discovery. In the end we continue because we understand it is in our best interest to do so. I may have been a clueless 20 year old kid back then, but even then I knew it. After all this time it is more clear than ever.
I never did take Pastor Harry up on his suggestion (after all, Lee’s a Pepsi girl, not Coke). But tomorrow morning, December 16, 2022, I’m going to put a bottle of coke and some roses on the table. Hopefully Lee won’t be feeling blue or grumpy, but she’ll get the reference. A shared history of two people who have already lived a lifetime together, raising 3 amazing children and somehow, even without the Coke and flowers, have stood the test of time.
And we are hoping for more. We still don’t know exactly what we’re doing. We take things as they come, and have faith that in the end, it will work out. After all, who knows where we’ll end up? Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Who knows why enduring friendship and love was visited upon us?
Who knows how our love grows?
Who knows where the time goes?