'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...'
Despite the self evidence of true love at any Diamond Anniversary celebration, a recitation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sonnet would have sounded more than a little out of place at Millie and Charlie's party at the Tarkio Community Building this past weekend. 'I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach'.....comes off as kind of high falutin' in a venue with Swing Era tunes as background music on one end of the hall and tin pans of pork loin, beans, and potato salad arrayed on the long tables at the other.
But the idea of counting, of accumulation, of tallying the riches of a life like Scrooge McDuck in his money house, is tempting. And so, with credit given to everyone in our family who contributed to this wealth of detail and mingling of fact and fancy, here are some of the highlights of sixty years of marriage. If you don't agree, then stay married for sixty years and make up your own!
Number 1 is the story, and it begins with 2 people who fell in love and, over time, had 3 kids. Those three kids gave them 10 grandchildren and 11 great children with another on the way. Numbers to thrill the heart, but still, pretty universal measures of happiness.
But other associations are more idiosyncratic and personal. For example, Millie loves chickens and over time, her 4 chickens grew to a flock of 60. Charlie's Minneapolis Moline 670 loader tractor was part of farm life for most of the twentieth century. When Millie ran over a big deer two or three weeks ago, she claimed her tally for animal/automobile fatalities increased to 5 dogs and 3 deer (8). Both Josh and his Grandpa Charlie share the number 15 for their birthdays and this November will mark the 16th time the two of them will have voted for President. It takes 17 eggs, according to Grandma Nelson's recipe to create an angel food cake....and at least 19 annoying vacuum cleaner salesmen have dropped by over the years to eat sandwiches, ruin a recliner, and stay for hours and hours for the company!
If you call Millie and Charlie at home, you are likely to be the the 28th message waiting on their answering machine. And that's because there are an estimated 32 hearing aid batteries lost during the course of a month. During the course of a summer, Millie puts up at least 25 gallons of sweet and crunchy green lime pickles and if we're lucky, the family picks, shucks, cuts and freezes 24 bushels of sweet corn.
We save the truly big numbers for matters of significance and worth. Millie checks on her family members, especially the grand and great grand children an average of 40 times a week. Charlie yells at the Cardinals at least 38 times....a game, that is. Their family has racked up a total of 33 weddings and baptisms...and 35 family members will sit around their table at Christmas time this year.
So much history, so much family. Charlie planted his first corn crop in 1948 at the ripe old age of 14 and in 1950, Millie and Charlie started "courting". One graduated from high school in 1952 and the other in 1953. They married in 1956, giving all of us a reason to celebrate number 60, the diamond anniversary for this great couple.
"How do I love thee?"
Let's count the ways.
How about thousands of meals eaten in the field and hundreds of basketball, baseball, volleyball, football games, dozens of fishing trips and more floods and droughts than they care to remember.
As the poet says: "Smiles, tears, of all my life....."