Today is our 40th wedding anniversary. Strangely, we are celebrating that today for the first time in 40 years.
You see, Al and I were married twice - to each other both times. December 29th is the date of our first, legal marriage ceremony. January 17th is the date of our second, church ceremony.
We've never celebrated on December 29th before, but this year is different. This year, my husband is dying from cancer and it is important that we take every moment possible to celebrate whatever we can in whatever time we have left together. Even though he is lying in a hospice bed, getting weaker every day, we celebrate that we've been married – happily – for 40 years. That is a big accomplishment these days and we’re proud of ourselves.
Al and I met in college in Calgary, Alberta in the fall of 1973 and we became best friends before we began dating in January 1974. Al went home to Regina, Saskatchewan to work at the Regina Leader-Post newspaper for the summer of ’74 and I stayed in Calgary to work at summer jobs. Those were excruciatingly lonely months without him, but he phoned me often, in the middle of the night, using the Regina Leader-Post's long-distance phone plan. (Thank you, former sports editor Bob Hughes for being so kind as to allow these calls between two lovesick youngsters.)
The first thing Al said to me when he returned to Calgary in August 1974, for our second year of journalism school, was, "Will you marry me?"
I eagerly said, “Yes.” I couldn’t imagine a life without him.
We didn't officially get engaged until the following spring, at the top of the Calgary Tower, a few days before our two-year journalism course ended. Al had a job waiting for him in Regina and I only had him, so we agreed that I would move to Saskatchewan. It was an excellent decision on my part.
One of Al's dad's friends informed us that if we got married before the end of the calendar year, Canadian income tax rules (in those days) would allow Al to claim me as a dependant for the entire year. This meant a significant tax benefit for a young couple who had nothing.
I was working as an invoice typist for a company that sold paper. I lied to my boss and said I had a doctor’s appointment that morning. (I had to lie - I needed them to still give me time off for our "real" wedding a few weeks later.) I left work at 11 a.m. to meet Al, his parents, his sister Linda, and one of our male friends, Terry, at the Regina court house. I didn't have any friends in Regina yet and Al's sister was still underage, so Al's mom signed the marriage documents as my witness. Our friend Terry signed for Al. (Strangely, Terry was an usher at our church wedding and not one of our best men. Our best men were likely both working that day and we must have decided not to bother them with this trivial event since Terry was available during time off from his job.)
The marriage ceremony lasted less than 15 minutes. Al took my wedding ring out of a box and put it on my finger at the appropriate time, as I did with his; we signed the papers; put the rings back in the boxes; took a couple photos; then went for lunch at a nearby pizza restaurant. I couldn't even eat much lunch because it took a long time coming and I would have been too late going back to work.
|December 29, 1975.|
|Al's mom is wearing red. Al's dad is in the background.|
|Linda, Al, me, Terry.|
Al continued to live at his parents' house while I lived in an apartment that became our first home as husband and wife after our "real" wedding weeks later.
|January 17, 1976.|
We have always considered January 17th to be our wedding anniversary. December 29th was quickly forgotten.
It’s unlikely that my beloved Al will be alive on our January 17th, 40th wedding anniversary. His colon cancer has spread to his bowels and he has been unable to eat for most of the last few weeks. It is sad, maddening, distressing, and heartbreaking to watch, but we have had many precious moments these past 12 days since we heard the news of the failed surgery attempt to remove his bowel blockage.
Al is strong mentally, when the painkillers wear off a bit, and he has surprised us many times over these past few days: waking to watch the world junior hockey games (hockey is his favourite sport); asking us to bring him an Orange Crush and then absolutely savouring the taste of it; providing a suggestion on how to further streamline our accounting processes for our book publishing business; telling our children, children-in-law and grandchildren that he loves them; and, as usual, correcting my verbal errors when I say the wrong name as I tell a story, and, I am sure, mentally rolling his eyes when I say dumb things. He has opened his eyes and wished me “Happy Anniversary” twice today, including after I read him what I intended to post on this blog. He is a good man.
And we have laughed. A lot.
|Al watching world junior hockey with our|
son-in-law Kyle, son Dave, and daughter Lisa.
|Enjoying Orange Crush, with our|
Al has been at peace with the notion that he is dying. Everyone dies. It is apparently his time.
He wanted to make it to Christmas, which he did.
|Al was able to come home for a few hours on December 22, to|
celebrate an early Christmas with our beautiful family
He wanted to make it to our anniversary, which he did.
He has lived a good life and, as he told me a few months ago before we knew how mean this cancer would become, “We’ve had a good run.”
Yes, we have, my love. Forty great years. Happy Anniversary.