March 27, 1971 was a beautiful Saturday. It was warm, the sun was shining, and spring was definitely in the air. The field next to the church had just been sprayed with liquid manure.
I remember it well, the wedding, not the smell. It was the day I married my best friend. Of course, I didn’t know she would become my best friend. My best friend was my best man. I married Neva to be my wife, or so I thought. It has turned out so much more than that naïve 23 year-old groom could have imagined.
We soon discovered that we had a lot in common besides amorous affection. We both liked travel, adventure, antiques, nature and Milky Way candy bars.
The summer after our wedding we lived on a mountain with no communications, no electricity or running water. As part of a church sponsored summer service project, we hosted hikers at a camp about halfway up Pikes Peak in Colorado. I chopped the firewood and Neva prepared our meals over either a woodstove or an open fire.
That experience helped set the stage for all that was to transpire in the next 42 years. Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, we strived and thrived as individuals and as a couple. It hasn’t all been pretty or perfect, but we have endured, much the way we did on the mountain.
We each spent a career in public education, something we both dearly believe in for the good of our own children, our community and our country. It was an honor to serve in that capacity.
We built one new home and completed another. Both had excellent views and wonderful neighbors.
We raised two beautiful children, who each have an amazing spouse of their own. It’s a joy to watch them all blaze their trails through life, positively affecting others. Of course, we adore our three grandchildren as precious gifts, too.
Our similarities and differences have balanced, renewed and enriched our lives, and have helped cement our marital friendship. Neva loves helping at the local thrift shop. I enjoy photographing sunsets. She quietly quilts or sews while I write.
The length and strength of our marriage can be attributed to our many common interests, and the recognition that we try to allow space for our own wants, wishes, talents and abilities. We complement one another, and we compliment one another.
After 42 years of marriage, Neva and I have reached a new phase in our relationship. We love being grandparents, and seize each opportunity to host, visit or vacation with the grandkids. Being mostly retired allows us to do that.
It also gives us pause to ponder how we have made it through the good and bad that life has thrown at us. All I can determine is that we have survived for two main reasons. We have many faithful friends and family members who have unwaveringly stood by us, and we have each other.
With a mesmerizing fire in the fireplace, a cup of coffee and some of Neva’s delicious homemade cookies, we spend many winter evenings together enjoying college basketball games on TV. It doesn’t take much to make us happy.
We are still close friends with our best man and his gregarious wife. But as I look back on our life together, it is obvious that Neva and I are more than wife and husband. We indeed are each other’s best friends.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013