On our wedding day (June 18, 1966), the #5 song on the Top 40 charts was “Groovy Kind of Love” by Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders. It would take some “mind-bending” to ever think of Tom and me – at ANY time of our lives – as “groovy.” (Tom might disagree….)
We met at a spaghetti dinner held at my Marylhurst College dorm – a get-to-gether with the University of Portland Engineer’s Club. Tom would say that we Marylhurst ladies were looking for potential husbands. NOT true – at least on my part. My dorm mother, Sister Regina Mary, mandated that ALL of “her girls” attend the spaghetti dinner that she had spent the day slaving over. She even arranged with Saga Food Service that no one from our dorm could be served dinner in the Commons that night! Now, maybe her motivation had something to do with husband-hunting on our behalf; but I was just hungry!
I was a junior in college, working hard on my goal to become the next Dame Judith Anderson. (Actually I vacillated between wanting a career in acting and wanting to be a contemplative nun – but that is a story for another day.) I was in the middle of rehearsals for Marhlhurst’s annual Christmas production. (I played a sexy tavern wench who (using my feminine wiles and swaying hips) waylaid Harod’s soldiers that came in search of the baby Jesus.) I was NOT thinking of husbands that fateful night – only dinner! It takes a lot of energy (i.e. calories) to play a sexy wench….
As we danced to Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” (#1 on the charts that week), one of the first things Tom shared with me was that his parents had just celebrated their 25th anniversary – and, that his grandparents, only a few weeks earlier, had celebrated their 50th anniversary! Ok. I wasn’t looking for a husband, true; but that got my attention. As a child of divorced parents, I was definitely attracted to this young man who came from such good marital stock.
Later that night, he said something else that definitely caught my attention. These were the days of the draft and the Vietnam War was in full swing. The engineering students at our dinner table were discussing ways to legally dodge the draft. The most popular one, it seemed, was to get married! Tom’s best friend happened to be engaged to a girl in our dorm (a close friend of mine); and he shared that he and Allette were upping the date of their wedding to the week after his graduation avoid the draft (men in college had a draft deferment). That’s when Tom spoke up: “I would rather go to Vietnam than get married any day!”
Something in me, some primordial stirring, awoke. My feminine radar picked up. What a challenge! I quickly shook it off, though – marriage did NOT fit in my Broadway plans. (Or with my possible call to the convent!)
A week later, on November 22, 1963, Tom and I went on our first date. Does that date sound familiar? It was the infamous day our President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. Needless to say, that first date was NOT typical. It set the tone for our whole relationship. From that first date, Tom and I were forever friends, in the truest sense of the words. That evening, we spoke of eternal things, of our Faith, and our deepest hopes for our country and our world. As I said, NOT the typical first date.
Two years later (almost to the day), we were engaged – but again, not in the typical 1960’s cocktail party celebration. Early on the day after Thanksgiving, Tom and I met with Father Pettingill, the priest who had given us pre-marital counseling. The three of us entered the tiny chapel at Marin Catholic High, my high school alma mater, where Tom and I were solemnly betrothed.
The Betrothal Ceremony was not (and still isn’t) a popular custom for engaged couples in the United States. However, it is a part of The Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church. It is a binding contract, defined as a “pact of promise of future marriage.”
The ceremony itself mirrors the Catholic marriage ceremony, except that it refers to the marriage bond in the future tense. The ceremony is ancient, having its roots in the Jewish betrothal ceremony – the same ceremony that Mary and Joseph took part in. Just as in Mary and Joseph’s situation, our betrothal was a legal bond: we were “married” that afternoon in the chapel – it would take an ecclesiastical legal action (in Mary and Joseph’s day, a divorce) to break the vows of our Betrothal.
That day, with just Father Pettingil as our witness, Tom and I “pledged our troth.” It was important to me that our Betrothal NOT be a social occasion, but a solemn spiritual one. GOD was our only “witness,” unless you count the Communion of Saints.
Early last year, with our 50th anniversary just a year away, Tom and I began thinking about what we would do to highlight this milestone in our lives. We decided that, instead of celebrating the next June on our actual wedding anniversary, we would move the celebration to that coming November (2015), to highlight the betrothal anniversary. BUT, as they say, “Make your plans in pencil and give God the pen.”
The cancer diagnosis and treatment blurred our focus and November passed without our notice. Good things were happening, as I have shared in other posts; but never-the-less, those first months of cancer treatment were harrowing. There didn’t seem to be a week where we weren’t either spending time at the ER, the radiology lab at the hospital, or the cancer clinic. And then there were the side effects of the meds – hey, I really was feeling much better than I had had in years, but nonetheless, those first months were 100% focused on surviving cancer.
So, here we are. Our Golden anniversary, June 18, is this Saturday. You may ask, “Where’s the party?” A 50th anniversary is a BIG DEAL, right? It deserves a celebration. Yet we will not be celebrating. WHY?
There are a number of reasons, some of personal and some practical. But the main reason is that Tom and I still want to highlight our betrothal! It is where the blessings from God (officially) began to flow on our marriage. We want to return to that sacred moment; but this time, we want to share it with those we love. For this reason, we have decided that our official Golden Anniversary celebration will take place on November 19, the Saturday before Thanksgiving (as close as we could get to the actual betrothal anniversary).
We feel good about this decision. It fits us. We have never been a couple who celebrate things like Valentine’s or anniversaries in a big way. We aren’t saying that anniversaries aren’t important. Just that it’s the 363 days between anniversaries that are more important. And it’s the 18,250 days we will have spent happily together as husband and wife, that deserve applause. Not for us, but for GOD.
He brought us together, giving us one of the greatest of all gifts (we always were and still are, best friends), and He blessed us beyond our wildest dreams with three beautiful daughters, two marvelous sons-in-law, and the most adorable grand-daughter a grandpa and grandma could ask for.
To quote from the priest’s words to us in the Betrothal Ceremony: Beloved of Christ, It is the dispensation of Divine Providence that you are called to the holy vocation of marriage.…you entreat the blessing of the Church upon your proposal …. since you fully realize that what has been inspired and guided by the will of your heavenly Father requires equally His grace to be brought to happy fulfillment. We are confident that you have given serious and prayerful deliberation to your pledge of wedlock; moreover …. you will have laid a sound spiritual foundation for long years of godly prosperity on earth and eventual blessedness together in the life to come.
Reading again those last (underlined) words, I can’t help thinking: isn’t THAT the truest definition of “groovy.”
- For those who are history buffs, here are a few other important June 18th’s in history:
- Napoleon defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
- Churchill gave his “finest hour” speech in 1940.
- Congress declared war on Great Britain, Canada, and Ireland in 1812.
- Steve Timm was born in…. (ask Steve the year. I am not telling).Happy Birthday, Steve! (Steve writes for Catholic Finish Strong. Go visit the site and enjoy Steve’s wit and wisdom.) [catholicfinishstrong.net]