Those were the words that echoed throughout the pool at the YMCA this morning, as we were just finishing up our high-impact water aerobics class. There were about 15 of us in the class, of varying ages and circumstances, and one of the older ladies walked up and whispered something into the instructor’s ear. After she did, the instructor reached down to her iPod, and put on the song “The Sea of Love.” She then said to Betty, which happened to be this woman’s name, “I am told this is you and your husband’s favorite song, so we will end with it today. Everyone please congratulate Betty – today is her 66th wedding anniversary! Isn’t that incredible?” All the ladies cheered and applauded and gave words of joy and laughter and lightly joked about marriage and how do you do it and wow, that’s so many years, and on and on and on.
I sat in the pool for an extra few minutes, unable to make myself get out or climb the ladder and be bombarded by Betty and her married entourage of women all fawning over the multiple decades of wedded existence. I silently wished Betty well, because that is absolutely a milestone to celebrate. But I just couldn’t be a part of it. It hurt way too much. Seven years into this, and still, hearing about older couples who are honored enough to get years and decades together when I only got 4 years and 9 months, it still stings. It stings to hear about their children, their houses they bought together, their jobs they retired from, their grandchildren, their vacations, their retirement, all of it. Longevity is not something I was given a choice about in my marriage. When your person dies suddenly, before you could have kids or houses or careers or savings accounts or milestone dates, all of that is gone. It just disappears into oblivion. I am happy that Betty can celebrate 66 years with the same person, but part of me feels almost offended that I don’t get to prove to everyone that my marriage would have been one of those kind that lasted a lifetime and that grew with age and time, and that was a thing of beauty. I will never know. I will never know what would have become of us, what our future would give us. But I know everywhere inside of me that we had the kind of love that would have made it to 66 years and beyond. This I know.