June 18, 2015
On this day sixty years ago I confirmed the most important decision in my life: I married Barbara Jean Davis.
Jokes are routinely made by men in anticipation of "breaking up that old gang of mine." Bobby Howard, however, never participated (even to this day) in this cliché of male chauvinism... from a personal tendency to certainty in all things, if also from the "silent generation's" readiness to go along with the way things have always been done, but primarily because I've always been one who knows when he has a good thing.
Anyway, on June 18, 1955 in the early afternoon at First Methodist Church, Stamford CT, on the Boston Post Road, in the presence of the bishop and dozens of other clergy, including two in the bridal party, I loudly and emphatically mis-repeated the ritual words the bishop asked me to say, "With this wing, I thee red." Moments earlier the maid of honor, Barbara's sister Eleanor could be seen weeping while walking down the aisle, the consequence of her sister's glance in her direction accompanied with a voiced "Goodbye." So much for memorable moments of our nuptials.
The reception in the church hall sans alcoholic beverage annoyed my high school buddies, but Methodists in those days were determined teetotalers, and for Christ's sake there would be no booze in his church. By the time the reception line concluded most of the four hundred guests had left. Some re-gathered on the lawn of my parents' house. My buddies felt obliged to adorn the Super Six Hudson getaway with crepe and horseshoes, breaking a garage window in the process, for our trip that evening to Newton Highlands just off the Worcester Turnpike.
The newlyweds dined at The Meadows on the turnpike. Carmen Cavallaro's band serenaded us there. We repaired to Barbara's aunt's house for our first night together in the same bed (my how times have changed!). We didn't get much sleep, but not for the reason you may be thinking. The next door neighbors and friends played a late night poker game with the windows wide open and voices betting at top volume.
The following day we drove to Wood's Hole in my father's Hudson for the ferry trip to Nantucket. The ticket taker greeted us as newlyweds because he noticed how shiny our wedding rings were. We stayed in a motel cabin and dined on lobster for the rest of the week. For whatever reason I read Brighton Rock by Evelyn Waugh, a most disturbing (in retrospect, if not then) tale about a petty criminal and his girlfriend. We returned to civilization, work at Stamford's Cummings Park as playground supervisors, a shortened term as student assistant minister in the Mamaroneck Methodist Church, and another academic year culminating in graduations from Union Theological Seminary and Barnard College.
21,190 days later, three children and eight grandchildren later, today, we spent a day alone together in our Vermont cabin.
Our niece coyly asked for words of wisdom about longevity in marriage. I was uncharacteristically slow and inarticulate in responding. And maybe that's the point... or wisdom. Not to think too much about it. Or in the Nike vein, just do it. Talk, yes, by God and by all means, let the other know where you're going and what's on your mind. Eventually one learns what buttons of the other not to push, to skirt around, change the subject, and, in the words suggested by the Apostle Paul, bear all things... especially those petty idiosyncrasies which are too often exaggerated into major annoyances. Anything can be thought; but not everything needs to be said. Except one word which must always be on the tip of the tongue, and you know what it is. George explained to me that he and Ruth had a nightly ritual concerning that word, a ritual never to be put aside no matter the emotions which preceded it. Said he to her and she to him night after night before the sandman arrived, "I love you."
That's a heap of loving... 21,190 times.