As best we can recall, it’s a first. This weekend we will celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary in our family.
My grandparents all passed by the time I was in grade school. I don’t remember my parents ever celebrating an anniversary, and Dad died when mom was just 59. Some divorced. My sister Diane came the closest but lost the love of her life after 46 years. Both divorce and widowhood meant I’d not make the mark.
But now, we celebrate a miraculous milestone.
A short hospital stay gave my shy brother Dave a chance ask his nurse Jan out on a date. Within a year I was invited to be a junior bridesmaid and wear a homemade purple gown with short puffy sleeves and ricrac. Dave and Jan are a humble couple, and their wedding reflected the simplicity they would go on to share at their house in the country with cats, and a garden of roses.
They raised two beautiful children. One suffered a neurological injury that meant she would always remain at home. The other had so much of his parents’ strong work ethic that he found the financial success for him to host the fanciest party for his folks at the newest and nicest hotel in the city.
A half century of married life brings a host of hardship and heartbreak. Dave and Jan had their share. But the one that put it all at risk was Jan’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer in bone marrow with a devastatingly grim prognosis.
Jan had watched her mother die of the identical disease; but it wasn’t genetic. Jan was adopted. Most suspect it was the toxic Roundup spread on fields where she grew up in rural Nebraska that poisoned them both. But the cause didn’t matter to Jan. She focused her full determination on staying alive.
She and Dave made countless drives to Mayo in Minnesota. She survived a stem cell transplant. She’s done years of chemotherapy, including risky experimental trials. She’s endured every rotten side effect you can imagine.
It’s been 15 years of their 50 together, with Dave by her side.
The toasting and cheering are scheduled to take place on a “non-chemo” week. I’ll be there wearing purple and packing my handkerchief to be witness to their love and commitment anew.
It’s sure to be golden.