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October 2nd, 2011:

Thirty-Five Years

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Thirty-five years ago today, Carol and I stood side by side at St. John Brebeuf church in Niles, Illinois, and promised before God that we would strive to be not simply together, but together as best friends and inseparable partners, until whatever end may come. That’s the short form; I’m not sure I could say it better than I said it five years ago in this space.

So I’ll add some backstory: It was a big Polish wedding, with the ceremony at Carol’s parish church and the reception (217 guests) that evening at the now-vanished Northwest Builders Hall in Chicago. There were eight in the bridal party, and, remarkably, we have been in regular touch with seven of the eight. My childhood best friend Art Krumrey (whom I met at Edison School kindergarten in 1957) was our best man, and Carol’s sister Kathy was maid of honor.

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L-R: My locker partner Tom Barounis, my sister Gretchen, Fox Patrol colleague George Murphy, Carol’s friend Eileen Schultz, me, Carol, Carol’s sister Kathy, Art Krumrey, Carol’s sorority sister Roseann Such, and my high school astronomy club colleague George Hodous. The bridesmaid dresses were mostly timeless; the groomsmen’s tuxes very Seventies. The food was Polish and spectacular, and we had a polka band that wore everybody out, which is what we hired them to do.

The family turned out in force, as did most of our friends. The page below is from our wedding guest signature book, and I consider it about as interesting as such things ever get. Edward E. Smith and George O. Smith were both there, though after signing the book they left at 40% the speed of light and I didn’t get pictures. The late (and terribly missed) George M. Ewing included his callsign, as always (portable 9!) and fan artists Phil Foglio and Doug Rice collaborated on some between-the-lines illumination. Mary the Mother of God signed in from the future (as Our Lady of the Endless Sky, straight from Sinus Iridum) though many of us wonder why the Blessed Mother had trouble with her handwriting.

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It was huge good fun. Outside the church, family threw rice and friends threw punch-card chad, which I was picking out of my ears well into our honeymoon in the Cayman Islands. Carol’s sister caught the bouquet. (I don’t recall who got the garter.) We had a martini fountain, which was the first time I’d ever seen that technology, though not the last.

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It’s sobering to look at the wedding photos and see an entire generation gone (except for Carol’s mom) as well as friends like George Ewing and Sharon Bloom who died far, far too soon. The photos are a snapshot of a time that few appreciate but which wasn’t as bad as conventional wisdom holds. Like the Forties (which we all mocked in our youth) the Seventies will come back someday, though I wouldn’t wait up for clones of the AMC Pacer.

JeffCarolFormal2007Small.jpgAs for Carol and me, well, the promise has been kept. We’ve taken some hits down the years but the flag still flies. Marriage works. It does. Not always and sometimes not the first time, but in our case, luck was with us and love did the rest. Thirty-five years on we have transformed one another, as marriage is intended to do, and at this point Jeff without Carol is no more meaningful than dividing by zero. Mission accomplished. Thanks from both of us to those who’ve been with us all this time, and to those others who have by now taken their places in the Community of Saints, all of whom made it possible without fully understanding how much their simple kindness and unending faith would mean to two ordinary people who made those extraordinary promises so many years ago.