Our fortieth wedding anniversary is this Sunday. Forty years! Looking back, I realize we were both very young; I was nineteen and a college sophomore and my husband was twenty two and just home from a hitch in the Army. It scares me to think about it now, but neither of us had any qualms at the time. I’m amazed my parents agreed so easily; I guess that’s one sign of how times have changed. We would not have been so pleased if our children had chosen to marry so young! Maybe our history had something to do with it.
My father was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Upon graduating, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. Born and raised in Ohio, the ocean had always called to my dad. He finished boot camp and reported to the Naval Ship Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. His immediate enlisted supervisor was an older man, a Norfolk native, married with no children. The CPO’s wife welcomed anyone who happened to come home with her husband each night, hungry and homesick. She would feed a dining room table full of young men away from home for the first time, and then ride the street car with them to the Navy Y where she volunteered serving coffee and dessert. She opened her home to newlyweds who did not qualify for or could not find housing, offering to divide whatever she was cooking with anyone who sat down at her table. My father often talked about dividing a chicken wing into three or four pieces to pass around her table. As the war drew on, my father was transferred to Philadelphia and then to the South Pacific where he spent the duration of the war. Because the CPO was an older man, he never saw overseas duty, ending up in the Brooklyn Navy Yards until the end of the war.
My dad survived the war, came home, married my mother and settled down to live out his American dream. My parents visited Virginia Beach on their honeymoon and stopped in to visit the CPO to meet the new baby that everyone had given up hoping for. Every December, my family would receive a Christmas card from Norfolk, Virginia. Across the years, the cards continued to come with a line or two of news. My father never went back to Norfolk, but always stayed in touch through the Christmas cards that always came.
More time passed. I went to Kent State University and lived through the student shootings there on May 4, 1970. I decided to transfer to a local college after the Kent campus became a media circus the following year. Shortly after I moved back into my parents’ house in January of 1971, my father received a phone call from his old CPO in Norfolk. His son, now grown and stationed in Germany with the Army, had met a girl from my hometown in Ohio and was coming north on leave to visit her. He’d like him to stop by so my father could meet him. And the rest, as they say, is history. The CPO’s only son is my husband of forty years. We met, I ended another relationship and seven months later, we were married. We live in Norfolk.
I’m not sure if this is a story of karma, of two souls meant to be together, or of two people that have worked hard to make a good marriage and have been extraordinarily lucky along the way. I do know that you never know what the world has in store for you and that we need to remain open and alert along the way so we don’t miss anything!