Seen at its start, looking forward fifty years seems an impossible long time with nothing ahead but time tick-beating monotonously into an unseen and unseeable future. Looking back over the same period after travel requires a feat of condensing where the humdrum valleys or unwanted recollections stay out of sight behind a series of the desired peaks and heights of memory. Of course, we each approach and tally our days in ways suitable to our calling. I have usually been OK to simply have one day follow another and another without growing overly fussed with recollection. This works for me and is apparently my natural style as I discovered at age fifteen dating an otherwise suitable “mate prospect” who turned out to be if not the Queen then at least the Patron Devotee of anniversaries.

She kept detailed track of everything and sometimes linked snippets into chains of related minutiae. There was the time we celebrated the one month passage of the first date when kissing took place. (She wore braces that made, in my mind, the first two dates risky in terms of possible entanglement with those glittering metal jaws. She solved this my hiatal dilemma (which sounds more exciting than the reality) of will by jamming her face into mine so there was no escape from the consequence of turning into a bottom feeder intent on slurping morsels of past meals from the many gaps in enamel, metal, and rubber binders. I had French kissed before that day but the event I describe I count as my first visit to a French Restaurant. Once she had me over that hurdle she had me. She knew it, too. The adage that the way to a man’s (works the same for a boy) heart being through the stomach should include the gullet because for a male once things progress that far the menu is set and the contents cooked for serving.

She thought, I think, this meant true love surrender when in fact my full-open gape large as a cornucopia was a defensive maneuver to escape skewering on the many metal barbs of her oral sanctuary. Quite honestly, this was not an entirely bad or unwanted situation. It had its moments of destiny, indeed, but once I’d become love’s slave the longed for consummations grew fewer as it was then the duty of my goddess to show me off at every affair available at church or state events over the entire east end of the Iron Range. Promenade in hand-holding pomp during tournaments at the Virginia Hippodrome was considerably more tolerable (meaning active as was my requirement) than having to stand stock still as an attendant in a receiving line for Eastern Star girls in Biwabik. Either of those things was worth the pain knowing the French eatery would open for an intimate little dinner afterward. Truth be told, the restaurant never opened and the dining experience devolved into snips of snacks. Two hours of promenade or attendance turned into two minutes of face mushing, by any standard a poor trade.

I could easily enough have stayed in the position of a charm on the bracelet of a goddess. There were benefits in appearing conventionally normal. People who’d never had a word for me before would break into smiling conversation over the topic of the “nice couple” we made. This made me feel awkward knowing I was there mostly in hope of attending the grand opening of Chez Oh La-La. It didn’t feel right, but I could have endured in hope eternal had the mental requirements not been so formidable. My girl (otherwise as my owner) remembered everything in perfect detail but it was all detail as lost on me as an awareness of galactic dust. From nowhere, while my mind was off thinking about the grand opening, a meteor of inquiry would crash into my atmosphere in the form of an eager and innocent sounding question. Did I like the dress and corsage Rachael wore at the reception?

Where my mind was at any given moment was light years far from her inquiry. What Reception?
Who was Rachael? Was it a white dress? What corsage? I’d fall into dead sweat panic knowing that an unsatisfactory response to any portion of the question would lead to more questioning; the broche she wore, color of her dress, or the flowers on the head table could all come into play and I’d come up blank as snow on a hillside. I didn’t pay attention to such things, never had and never would. I was there to smile and look presentable while waiting in hope of the snack bar opening and of possibly someday having the full menu spread before me. It was all so really, really simple until I’d be questioned on either details or motive. Confronted I had no choice but resort to teenage male tradition and lie my butt off followed by profuse apology of the most abject sort because I knew in my heart the French snack bar was closed that night. There’d be other nights and other chances to redeem self and position, but it was so tiring and frankly not the least satisfying to lie and pander in phony sincerity. The promise of escargot was not worth the struggle to get the tasty morsel free of its determined shell.

So it was that I looked in awe at a couple celebrating fifty years of joined living. Nothing need be said of good times and bad. Those go without saying and apply to all of us, but seeing people who stayed their course for fifty years is a mindful message to me who was lucky to stay connected for fifteen weeks. Those I attempted this with can tell you with heartfelt sincerity that fifteen weeks with me is an awfully, awfully long time. I know one who claimed to have suffered an eternity in a mere five days. I think I might be commended for such efficiency.