Sixty is a Serious Number
Even the most mathematically obtuse among us cannot avoid some numbers. For instance: April 15 when the taxman takes his pound of flesh. December 25, Christmas and December 31, New Year’s, which come around every year, days of celebration, of remembering the past and anticipating the future. Independence Day, July 4, when flags fly and fireworks sparkle. These are common ground, dates and numbers impressed into our heritage and vocabulary. Then there are personal numbers, the ones writ only on your heart, tied inextricably by some inner measure of significance: when you learned to ride a bike or caught your first fish, your first paycheck, your first car, your first child, your last child, your anniversary. An anniversary, unlike a birthday, is not an inevitable portion of the human condition. It takes two to have an anniversary and the more anniversar­ies accrued, the greater the sum of accommodations, compromises, deaf ears, bit tongues, comfortable silences, and unspoken understandings accumulated.
Any anniversary is an accomplishment. After one year of marriage you get to eat freeze dried cake. What? More leftovers? Doesn’t seem like much of a reward for 365 DAYS of adaptation and transformation. There’s no way to build this thing called marriage by following a checklist or bullet points; like Johnny Cash’s Lincoln, it takes years, adding one piece at a time. And if the end result has one headlight on the left and two on the right…well, at least the thing moves.
By the time a marriage has achieved the sixty year mark, it’s a classic. I always read articles about wedding anniversaries, especially if there is a photo included. Doesn’t matter whether the photo is a black and white a half century or more old, or a church directory picture of a pair of seasoned oldsters. Either way, these couples bring to mind Proverbs 16:31: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
Grandma and Grandpa Hurst celebrated their 60th anniversary in 1987. Their fiftieth anniversary was the first family event I attended as a soon to be Hurst: at the time, it seemed there were hundreds of folks at the Farmers and Valley Bank wishing to celebrate with them, but that could be memory playing tricks on a young and anxious bride-to-be hoping not to embarrass herself immediately. But their sixtieth anniversary was a smaller get together, inevitable, I guess. I took a picture that day: Grandpa in his summer light blue suit and Grandma in a jewel blue dress; they are both smiling and, I’m sure, happy to have their family around a big table with them.
My folks used their prerogative as honorees to move their sixtieth celebration from the 5th of June to the 4th of July, giving the family yet another reason to add significance and fireworks to an already auspicious occasion. Needless to say, with kids and fireworks, horseshoes and rocky creeks, and at least five photographers, the event was well recorded for posterity.
This week, Millie and Charlie will share their sixtieth anniversary with a crowd of friends and family. I’m not going out on a limb to say there will be stories told and noise and small children underfoot and plenty of food. The Community Building will spill over onto the back porch and down the hill when, by special dispensation of the City of Tarkio, we shoot off fireworks down at the Rodeo Grounds. No doubt there will be a few party crashers by that time, but Millie and Charlie have ever been generous with their hospitality.
We commemorate more than the perseverance and partnership that sustains a marriage well over a half century. After sixty years, we celebrate being together. We take time to give thanks for what we take for granted every other day: for Joshie, days with Grandma Millie when he cooks mac’n cheese and other monstrosities, for another day of harvest with Charlie and some great-grandkid in the combine with him, for every Sunday my father plays in the trio at church and my mom makes him peanut butter cookies. Every big anniversary gives us a chance to be thankful for all the little moments we don’t measure.
Let’s celebrate them all!