Last Monday was our 35th wedding anniversary. When I think of celebrating, I think of the two of us doing something out of the ordinary, something that we will remember in future years. We never involve family or friends because frankly, no one we knew at the time thought it was a good idea for us to get married. My family and the Catholic Church wanted nothing to do with this union given that I had been married before. Rich’s family, being Jewish, were less than thrilled at his marrying a non-Jew with three children. Our friends at the time were having their own challenges with their own marriages so their attitude was, “why ruin a good relationship by getting married?”
So each year we would toast to what became our theme, “Against all odds!” As with most marriages, as the years accrued so have the challenges to overcome, and triumphs to celebrate. We spent our tenth anniversary at the 1912 Baroque-style Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, a suggestion from our concierge son Kenneth. We splurged by ordering a healthy choice breakfast through room service, the first time I’d ever had steel cut oatmeal. Interestingly, it’s become my staple breakfast to this day.
We celebrated our twentieth anniversary in France, taking a barge trip up the River Seine. With twenty or so other passengers, we tasted two wines each at lunch and dinner, failing miserably at deciphering the connection between the poetic descriptions of the samples and what were suppose to be the “fruity,” “buttery,” or “oak” flavors in our mouths. But lifting our glasses to the open sky as the boat sailed under bridges and into the city of Paris at dusk, that was a scene and sensation so memorable I’m able to relive it now by just recalling it to my mind.
A gift from Rich’s mother, we celebrated our 25th anniversary on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, beginning in Barcelona and ending in Venice. Since our daughter was gravely ill at the time we thought we’d postpone the trip, but she and her friends urged us to go. “We can’t go, so go on our behalf. Besides, it’s only a week.” So we went, but we were never far away from what was happening back in Nebraska as we stopped to light candles for Corinne in every church, chapel, and shrine in our path.
We were arranging to celebrate our 30th anniversary on a cruise to Alaska when a phone call early one Monday morning in April changed all that. Rich’s stunned voice on the other end of the line told me, “I’m being let go this morning.” The career guidance gurus would say, “go on the trip anyhow,” but we both concurred that advice didn’t fit our situation. Rich had been recruited to Pittsburgh four years earlier, after the death of our eldest daughter from breast cancer. When I read that the loss of a job can feel like the loss of a close family member, I knew Rich wouldn’t be able to relax until he had established himself in a new work situation.
Four years later, for our 34th anniversary we took the cruise. Everything in the universe cooperated this time, even the weather. Everywhere we went, as the sun shone every day, locals remarked how lucky we were to see the Denali mountaintop, only a third of the visitors to Alaska ever get to see it. My friend Charra was right, standing on a glacier is an otherworldly experience, made especially so in our case because we elected to take a dog sled ride.
With little time for advanced planning to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we settled on The Greenbrier, a resort dating back to 1778, when the waters of the spring on the property were first discovered. Billed as “America’s resort,” it’s been the vacation spot for a dozen or so presidents, and other luminaries through the centuries and it’s only a five-hour drive from Pittsburgh in West Virginia. Ten miles out from the main gate we began seeing the green fences that shelter from public view, the five golf courses, trout-filled creek, bike and horse trails, and vacation homes. We secured one of the only rooms available. It was in the Windsor Club, a section of the hotel offering concierge service and taking its name and style from the Duke and Duchess of Winsor, who were frequent guests. It seemed a journey into the opulence of previous centuries as we went immediately to the soak tubs, sampled the small canapés and wines in the clubroom and dressed for dinner and dancing in the 1913 crystal chandelier decorated main dining room.