Friday, July 24, 2015

Our First 50 Years

South Burlington, VT[Today is our 50th wedding anniversary. Below is an account of those years.]
In the winter of 1962-63, I walked into the cafeteria at Fayetteville Manlius High School and my life changed forever. You see, I met this girl. Her name was Libby Lowber. I won't claim love at first sight, but there was some attraction at first sight, because the next thing I know I was out on a date with her. I don't remember if I asked for the date or she did. It was only the second (and last) time in my life that I went on a date.

It was a double date. Libby and I were in the back seat of Gert. Gert was the car owned by our friends Baden an Emily. They were in the front seat and we were in the back. We went to a drive-in movie (what else would you do in those days???!!!) Before the end of that evening, Libby and I were boyfriend-girlfriend. We were very bad because for the rest of that school year we skipped school about twice per week to spend time with each other. As far as I know, our parents never found out about that.

Honeymoon departure in Gert
Three years later, I was at school up in Potsdam, NY. Libby was at school in Cazenovia, NY. She called me one night. She wanted to talk about setting a date for our wedding that summer. I was a bit reluctant because of pressure from my mother. My mother thought that we were too young, and she had reservations about Libby. But on that call, I relented and said, “OK.” The response was a huge cheer from what sounded like the voices of 100 girls. It seems that all the girls in Libby's dormitory were listening in on the call. I felt ambushed, but only for a moment because I was in awe of the thought of being married to Libby. You see, engagement is kind of abstract, but the moment that you set the wedding date, it becomes very real.

We made a happy couple at the wedding surrounded by so many wonderful family and friends. But ASAP we left for our honeymoon in Gert (we had bought Gert from Baden and Emily). What were our plans? We had none. We just started heading north and east finding interesting things along the way. That suited us just fine. (Note the premonition of the cruising life here.) We got to Maine and heard about Acadia National Park and that sounded neat. But along the way we stumbled across Booth Bay Harbor, and we just loved it. It took another 35 years and three more attempts before actually reaching Acadia.

Skip forward another year and we become the suburban couple near Schenectady, NY. My engineering career took of with a bang. Libby began establishing a network of friends. For decades thereafter I got consistent feedback from all of Libby's friends and acquaintances; Libby Mills was a very special person in the hearts of everyone who knew her. I already knew that, but it made me proud for others to say so.

Skip forward another two years. We had been trying to get pregnant all that time without success, so we put our names in with the adoption agency. Then one day in 1968 (I think it was the same day) two things happened. I got a letter telling me that I would be drafted to go to Vietnam within a month. I really wanted to go because my friends were there putting their lives on the line, and I felt guilty not being there. But on that same day we got a surprise call from the agency, they had a baby for us. We rushed right over and picked up John. The way the rules worked, that disqualified me from being drafted. Besides, Libby said to me “Hell no. You can't go.” So, my life turned around on a dime once again. Two years after that we got another great surprise call from the adoption agency. That's how Jennifer entered our lives.

But life takes over. Being a parent is the biggest thing in your life. Bigger than career. Bigger even than marriage. John, then Jennifer, then David became the joy of our lives and still are. But being a parent doesn’t compete with marriage, it consummates it. It also gives you experience at working with your spouse as a team, as well as a couple. But even then it is not over. Being grandparents is wonderful, and great grandparents is even greater.

John, Jen, Dave
Wanderlust: In 1973 we were offered the opportunity to go overseas to Sweden for a year. We jumped at it. We lived over there 1973 to mid 1974. John started kindergarten over there. It was a grand experience for Libby and I. John and Jen were too young to remember everything from that year.  

Two years after that came surprise number three. This time it wasn't the adoption agency calling, it was the stork knocking. David entered our lives. What a joy that was. Now our family was complete.

In 1983, I was between jobs and looking to move out of Schenectady. I almost accepted a job year Dorval Airport in Quebec, but instead I elected to go back to Sweden and to work for my client, ASEA. You see, in the preceding years, I had more than 50 two-week trips to Sweden on business. That added up to more than two years away from the family. It became easier to switch than fight So, the entire family was uprooted and moved overseas. That was an experience none of them will ever forget the lives of all five us changed on a dime that day. We had some wonderful years and made wonderful friends in Sweden.

But one day in 1987, David woke up to go to school and said to Libby “It's hard to wake up and to remember how to speak English in the morning.” That evening, Libby said to me, “We're going home.” There was no room for discussion; her mind was made up. A few months later we were making yet another new life for ourselves in Burlington, Vermont. That was a fun experience. We didn't know a singly soul in Vermont, nor did I have employment there. I continued working remotely for ASEA in Sweden. So we entered Vermont homeless, friendless, and jobless (at least in the local context). Yet another life change swinging on a dime. Yet another premonition of the cruising life style.

Fast forward to 2005. The kids were grown up and gone. Libby and I were living in what the real estate lady called, “The perfect retirement home.” in West Charlton, NY. Libby had a garden, and I belonged to the local volunteer fire department. But at work, I had just completed an exhausting four year project, and I was feeling burned out. Then the idea popped into my head. “Who cares if we are only 60 years old? Let's retire early, sell the house, buy a sailboat, and cruise.” Poor Libby. I'm sure she must have gulped hard when she heard that, but forever loyal she never hesitated to give me her approval. So that's what we did.

Our First Day On Board Tarwathie
The years since then have been wonderful and so entirely different than our pre-cruising lives. We have been having nonstop fun for more than 10 years now while living the cruising life. Key to that success was our decision in 2005 to dump the idea of sailing around the world. We could have done it, but we realized that if we did so, that we would have little or no contact with family for 5 years or so. Instead we cruise on the East Coast where we have opportunity to see family every year. That was a wise choice.
Like everyone else, we have had some rough times, but our love only grew stronger. Libby especially deserves credit for her devotion to me and her loyalty. As my life spun on a dime again and again, she spun with me. She has been willing to follow my lead through all my crazy twists and turns. That is except in those cases where I get things wrong. In those cases, Libby turns my head to the right way, then willingly follows me as I head off in that direction.

In recent years on board Tarwathie, it occurs to me very often that I could not imagine having a better partner, a better lover, or a better crewman, than Libby. She is loyal. She is brave. She is adventuresome. She is smart, and she is wise. But most of all, she is me. I am her. We are the ying and yang of a couple; inseparable, and sometimes in my mind almost indistinguishable from each other.

Libby soars in a sailplane. Sugarbush, Vermont

But this 50th wedding anniversary is nothing more than a way point, another milestone in our lives. Thanks to our active lives, and thanks to a lot of luck, we both still have our health. We can continue having fun and finding new adventures to experience together. We'll continue doing that indefinitely; maybe another 50 years. Yet, if something happens tomorrow, we have the benefit of having enjoyed very satisfying lives. Someday in the future, we will depart this Earth without regret.

It makes me feel guilty speaking for both of us on this occasion. But I'm the one in the family blessed with passion for writing. But Libby will, as always, make her feelings known in other ways.
Only one piece of business remains unsettled. Libby has never admitted that she's wonderfuller.

Libby, I love you dearly.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Anniversary! You two lead charmed lives.


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