Dedicated to Irv: “You're my anchor in life's ocean, but most of all you’re my best friend.” **
In August, Irv and I celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary with a wonderful dinner at the Flagstaff House in Boulder. When I talked about our anniversary in Mussar class, Rabbi Jamie Arnold informed me that one translation of 55 in gematria, (the Greek word for the Hebrew numerological system used to convert numbers into words), is “the sea.” I thought it was an apt metaphor, so I penned this poem:
High tides and low,
Ebbs and flows.
Droughts and abundance,
Tranquil waters and choppy waves.
Through it all, the sea endures,
And even better, thrives.
Irv and I were novice sailors when we got married. I was just out of college and barely 21; Irv was 22 and finishing his first year as a teacher. Fortunately we learned together how to navigate the sea of marriage.
In 55 years, we’ve had abundant high tides – two kids, two grandkids, a wonderful home in the Colorado foothills. We’ve had our lows – money worries, death of family members, and most recently Irv’s diagnosis of being legally blind. And there have been two tsunamis. The first swept over us in 1976, when Kevin and Heidi were preschoolers, I was editor of the Golden Transcript, and Irv had a stroke and a toxic reaction to medication. He spent six weeks in the hospital. The second life-threatening wave flooded our lives in 1985 when the kids were in middle school. I had just accepted a demanding leadership role at work, and Irv developed blood clotting, resulting in numerous surgeries and the loss of his left leg. Our love for each other and Irv’s positive attitude helped us negotiate those rough seas.
As Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes in Gift from the Sea, “We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity…”
It’s easy to be content when life is flowing smoothly. When we were both employed, in good health, and Kevin and Heidi were doing well, there was a tranquil sea. When our kids were preteens, Irv lost his job and I lost my primary freelance contract at the beginning of the summer. We wondered how we would survive the financial drought. Rather than worry about it, we stuck to a strict budget while we took a camping trip around Colorado and bonded as a family. Right after we got home, I was hired by Jefferson County Schools for what would be a long and rewarding career. We endured once again because we took on this challenge as a team, with faith that abundance would return.
Over the course of the last five and a half decades, we’ve argued about important things – when it’s time to move – and silly ones – who left dishes in the sink overnight. We’ve had miscommunication about where and when we were meeting. We’ve gotten angry at each other for being late and not calling. I regularly “noodge” Irv about the stains on his pants and the length of his fingernails. He complains that I spend too much time on my phone. (He’s right!) Yet if I am mindful and more often express gratitude than complaints, love rather than judgment, we continue to thrive. The smooth waters overcome the choppy ones; the flows obscure the ebbs.
And so, as we celebrate 55 years together, I am grateful that we can live the promise of Isaiah 55, “All who thirst go to water…. For with joy shall you go forth, and with peace shall you be brought; the mountains and the hills shall burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap hands.”
*Bob Marley and the Wailers
**Don Williams, "You're My Best Friend"
(Note: This post was vetted and approved by Irv before publication.)