Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fiftieth Anniversary Musings

Saturday, June 10, my husband, Bob, and I celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

During our first year of courtship at the University of Alaska where we were both students, the faculty advisor for our Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter, a confirmed bachelor from Madagascar, said, "Couples start marriage like a prince and a princess. But soon they become a wrinkled and worn old man and old woman sitting across from one another at the breakfast table, wondering what they ever saw in each other."

Bob disagreed. "They would become more like a prince and a princess to each other."

Thinking of my Personeus grandparents, who celebrated their fiftieth anniversary that year and were still very much in love, I agreed with Bob.

That inspired me to write this poem:

To Bob

(written in December 1965)

Young and in love, like a prince and a princess,
They embarked on a journey in search of success.
Through time and sharing of joys and sorrows,
An old man and woman with few tomorrows
Look in review of the years spent together.
Though wrinkled and worn from work and the weather,
In their faces the glow of contentment does gleam
That more like a prince and a princess they seem.
For, Through the years, the secret they'd found
That in quietness and confidence their strength would abound.*
For God had not promised no problems they'd bear,
But only His strength with them to share.

*In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15.

Newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Conti
On May 22, 1967, Bob and I both graduated from the University of Alaska with plans to marry that summer. That year was also the Alaska Purchase Centennial. Fairbanks, home of the University of Alaska, was the site chosen for the Centennial Exposition. Due to the shortage of hotels/motels, most rentals in Fairbanks became daily or weekly rentals that summer, making the price prohibitive for a couple just out of college with no pay check until mid June.

We searched for several weeks and could not find a place to live. We had everything ready for our wedding but couldn't set the date until we found a home.

Bob, who had also been commissioned into the Army at graduation, was expecting orders to go on active duty at any time. When we couldn't find a place to live, he suggested that we wait to get married until after he arrived at his first duty location. He would then send for me, and we'd get married there.

That did not set well with me. I wanted my father, a pastor, to marry us. For two and a half years, I had been praying for God's will regarding our marriage. That night I prayed, "God, if we aren't married before Bob leaves for the Army, I'll know it is not Your will for us to get married at all."

The very next day we found a tiny furnished bungalow on 16th Street, a block off the main road out of Fairbanks. It was just what we needed, and the price was right. Bob rented it immediately. 

Knowing that Bob would have two weeks' notice to prepare to leave for active duty, we set our wedding date for two weeks after renting the house--June 10.

Bob was working for the State Highway Department, and I had been working as a cashier at the Centennial Exposition and living with family friends since graduation. Bob would not receive his first paycheck until the first of July, but I was paid every two weeks. Unfortunately, my first paycheck, which we were depending on to pay for our marriage license, was a day late.

When we went to pick up the license on Thursday, the day before we planned to drive to Valdez, 500 miles south of Fairbanks, we discovered that my require blood test certificate had expired the day before.

I was frantic! The state lab was only open on Tuesday and Friday mornings. The Gowins, the friends I was living with, helped me get an early Friday morning appointment at my doctor's to retake the blood test. Then Bob and I hand carried the blood sample to the state lab for testing. We then rushed the health certificate over to obtain the marriage license.

By then, it was afternoon. We still had to pick up the flowers (Valdez had no florists). But they were not ready when we stopped for them. We finally left Fairbanks at 3 p.m. for the 12 hour drive to Valdez.

Since we were nearing the longest day of the year, we had only a few hours of darkness. We arrived in Valdez in heavy rain at about 3 a.m., Saturday, our wedding day. Since Valdez had no hair salons either, I fell into bed three hours of sleep and got up at 6 a.m. to wash and roll up my hair, which would take all day to dry.

Saturday dawned clear and warm, one of those rare Alaskan days that make all the bad weather worth enduring--a perfect day for a wedding. Since we both had to go to work Monday morning, after our 7 p.m. ceremony and a reception of wedding cake and punch/coffee, we drove back to Fairbanks Saturday night. Arriving at our little bungalow about noon on Sunday, we crashed for the rest of the day.

We had no time for a honeymoon. In Fairbanks, where the sun hardly sets in the summer, the Highway Department worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 6 days a week, and I worked from 2 p.m. to midnight at the Centennial Exposition.

But God arranged for a honeymoon in a most unusual way. I'll write about that in my next blog.

As we look back on 50 years of marriage, we both agree that our bachelor friend was wrong. Perhaps we view each other through the eyes of memory of how we looked in our youth, but we still see a prince and a princess. Yes, we've had our share of difficulties, but through commitment to our marriage and forgiveness, we've made it through the hard times.

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