On April 10, 2018 I planned a surprise party for our 25th wedding anniversary but a blizzard changed our plans and we headed south. Had it happened, I had a cake with our picture on it, a killer party band and a speech to deliver to the bride. This is that speech.
. . .
In 2018, a 25 year wedding anniversary may be becoming a rarity– something to celebrate. But, I would like you to know that, even if we were only married one day I’d still celebrate Lori with you all.
In fact, that first day – 25 years ago – wasn’t the first day at all. We had known one another exclusively for five years prior, so today is more of a 30th Anniversary if you extract God and Country from the equation, which I am fine with.
The first day was actually during college in a dilapidated apartment complex in Millersville, Pennsylvania. I lived on the first floor with some ne’er do well rugby, lacrosse players and art majors. Across the hall were four innocent girls… How innocent were they? One even wore the bonnet required by the Mennonite faith. True story.
As fate would have it, they were all education majors and, as I have come to learn, teachers attract teachers.
My parents visited that first college apartment very rarely – my father almost never. But, on the one occasion he did, this group of girls and their guests peered out the window in admiration.
Of course I only learned this later but Lori was one of those gals who thought my father was a college hottie visiting the animals next door. I would meet her later through our neighbors and sparks flew around for five years until we were both out of school.
We called her Lori Sue back in those days and you still can if you want to differentiate her from all of the other Loris– and you should. She’s kind, caring, thoughtful, resilient, beautiful and interesting. She is a credit to Loris everywhere.
We lived together in the dangerous part of Norristown when I proposed. I worked in the dangerous part of Conshohocken and she would commute all the way over to this neighborhood to teach.
I was noodling around on the guitar as I did, and still do, almost every night when I said, check out this guitar pick. It was a ring and she was exited.
My parents knew a jeweler in Lancaster who had a winter engagement special where, for every foot of snow we got you’d get 10% off of your ring price. It seemed promising at the time but that whole winter we got under a foot.
So, Lori set about planning a wedding… in a church, with a party afterwards. The reception at the Gypsy Rose which is no longer there but the little church by the park in Phoenixville still stands even after I got married in it.
It didn’t rain that day. It poured. And poured and it was torrential. The skies opened and precipitation held for months from the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes dumped down upon our ceremony. It rained like it had never rained in my memory before or since.
We were poor… poorer than we are now… and I rented a car to take us on our three day honeymoon to the Poconos– one of the places with a heart-shaped bed and a champagne-glass bath tub. I think that was my Dad’s idea. It was something that we could afford and we both had to get back to work so we made the most of it like we have done with every up and every down for the last thirty years.
I remember holding the umbrella over her as she left the church in her long white dress, sheets of rain pelting us and her entire second grade class peering out the door. They had all sat on the balcony. They’re in their mid-thirties now.
After I got her into the rented white Grand Prix we sped off to the Gypsy Rose to an excellent party. My brother, the best man, gave an awkward toast but brought a lot of beer he had brewed up. Doobie was in the wedding party and he’s gone now, and Karl and Chad and Mick… three of my longest and best friends.
What I remember best from that party was my Grandfather, sweet on one of the bridesmaids- Lynne, having the time of his life. He’s gone now too as is my Dad who loved Lori and was never more proud of me as he was for marrying up.
After the wedding we moved to downtown Phoenixville well before it was a cool thing to do, then Lionville and into this house 22 years ago. This house– this farm, this virtual farm is a symbol of our marriage more than anything. There are wide open parts and old broken parts and new cool things and there’s always something to do. It’s a labor of love and, like a marriage, there is hidden potential in the buildings and in the land. I started a business here. We raised two children here. We both share a favorite past time of staying home on Saturdays and piddling around the property. We say that all the time:
“What are you going to do today?”
“Piddle around the house.”
It’s one of those words you’d never use with anyone you weren’t married to for more than 20 years.
People sometimes ask what the secret is to being married so long and I tell them. It’s Lori. Marry someone that is kind, caring, thoughtful, resilient. The secret is not my side of the equation. I am often a loose cannon, an unknown, a variable. Lori is the constant.
When we were engaged a loud mouth friend once quipped that it wouldn’t last, “she lives in a paper bag and you live in an arena,” he said. It was drunk talk but I think of the phrase often, especially during the rocky parts of married life and, although insulting to us both, it belies a subtle wisdom. Two arena acts cannot go on tour together. Van Halen is never going to open for the Grateful Dead.
We both had dreams, some realized, some deferred. Two of the best dreams were Tucker, our 24 year old son, probably conceived on a heart shaped bed– and Dagny, our 19 year old daughter. They’re not reasons for staying married 25 years but they are a blessed byproduct for which I am as proud and grateful as I am of my relationship with Lori.
They say, “do your wedding up big because you only get to do it once!” but that’s not always true. Take our president for example… But the odds are extremely rare that you will ever celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary twice.
Grow old with me is one of the final songs written by John Lennon…
Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done
It’s corny but it’s what I think about when I look at Lori.
“Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.”
It’s an easy to say phrase but a hard to practice mantra. You have to hold it together emotionally, physically, financially… so far we’ve been able to do that and we appreciate you all coming to help us celebrate.
In this life things can change in the blink of an eye but today we live in the moment!
I love Lori and always will and love everyone who could come and many more who couldn’t to celebrate 25 years of marriage.