39 years is a long time

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I will soon celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary.

I could be mean and say that 39 years seems like a really long time. It has been, but in a good way. Not that our marriage has been all peaches and cream and full of roses. There have been a few thorns along the way. But I won’t presume to tell my wife’s side of the story.

Let’s just say we are both human. And I recognize I that I have not always been the easiest person to live with. But I do my best to make it interesting.

As I look back over all those years, there are a lot of stories to be told, and then there are some that will never be told. Perhaps the most intriguing is how we met.

The short answer to that is that I chased Neva around a three-acre field filled with tender cucumber plants. We were on a mission/study trip in Kentucky with the youth from my church. The group’s assignment was to hoe the weeds in the field. Once Neva realized I was hoeing faster to catch up to her, she increased her weed eradication, too.

I just took that as sign that she liked me. You know how women can play hard to get. Well, I must have been right about her feelings because nine days after we had met we were engaged. You read correctly. Nine days. And if you thought that was fast, we married just nine months later without the shotgun. I was 23, she 21, both much too young.

We made sure we told our children not to repeat such foolishness in their own romantic adventures. That bit of advice probably wasn’t necessary. I think they saw the silliness in our story more than we did.

Regardless, facts are facts, and love is love. We’re still married after all those years. Of course, we have made our share of mistakes and misstatements. But rather than dwell on details, we’ve each managed to find forgiveness time after time.

As I recalled those 39 years, certain instances came to mind as if they had happened yesterday. The wedding day was one of those recollections.

The thing I remember foremost was just how scared I was. It wasn’t that I was having second thoughts. I was so out of it I’m not sure I was having any thoughts at all, and I hadn’t even had a bachelor’s party.

Thing is, I thought I was calm until an uncle made a sarcastic comment about how nice it was that the farmer across the road from the rural church had spread liquid sunshine on his field. I had to ask what he meant.

My uncle couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed the pungent manure odor. I’m not sure I smelled it even after he had said something.

I remember that most of my fourth grade class came in Paul Rohr’s refurbished school bus. During the ceremony they were the quietest they had been all year.

I remember that it took so long for the greeting line to end that people were leaving the reception before the bride and groom arrived. I also remember accidentally stepping on my wife’s wedding dress as we exited the church, and her finger wagging in my face. I knew I was a goner right then and there.

Somehow, we have made it this far, two houses, two children, both grown and happily married, and three grandchildren later.

Through good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, at work and at play, we have tangoed together for 39 years. Here’s hoping year number 40 will be the best one of all.

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