This story is by Dianne Wendy Day and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The card arrived in the mail on Tuesday. It was pretty with it’s red roses – to Holly and Joe. Holly quickly slit it open and discovered it was an invitation to their grandparents’ Mary and Mike’s 70th Anniversary celebration.
Wow! 70 years married and to the same person! It states RSVP by return mail. “I’ll do it today.”
Hank knocked on his Grandpa Mike’s door and yelled, “Hey Gramps. What’s this about a party? You don’t like parties!”
“That’s Mary’s idea and I always follow Mary’s lead. That’s why we’ve been together for so long.”
Mike said, “My story is about love and it’s complicated. Can you believe that old granny died in her sleep last night. Damn. Now it will be her anniversary each year that our anniversary roles around.”
The door opened and Mike’s grandson, Clint, strolled in. He took one look at us and announced “it’s my anniversary today and I’m 54 years young today.”
“My oldest grandson,” Mike said. “I remember when he was born, a squalling baby. I felt so sorry for Marjorie, a new mom with a baby that wouldn’t stop crying and born on Mary and my Anniversary day.”
Mike sat back in his rocker with his hand wrapped around a scotch and soda. He’d forgotten it was there. “Where’d I get the drink?”
“Relax Gramps.” Hank said. “I gave it to you! Now, tell us your story.”
“I was fifteen when I met Mary. She was an older woman – sixteen. We courted for a year and when I turned sixteen we got married. I remember the tiny church. Mary and her Mom filled it with white daisies. I felt awkward in my best suit. It was uncomfortable, I kept yanking at it as I’d grown that winter and it didn’t fit anymore.”
He stopped to cough and wiped his eyes before continuing with his tale.
“Mary was beautiful in her white dress and veil. I remember standing with the parson and shaking like a leaf on the old oak tree waiting for her Dad to walk Mary down the aisle. Later Mom brought out a large cake decorated with pink roses. I got into the cider, had too much to drink and Mary was mad. Still it was a good night, dancing to Joe’s fiddle.”
“By our first anniversary we had little Marjorie and a small cabin. The next winter we added another room to the cabin. Our second anniversary brought forth the birth of a son, John.
We didn’t have or need much money. We grew our own food and Mom taught Mary how to put up preserves and wax the vegetables for storage. We had a cold cellar which we kept supplied all winter. There were apple and pear trees on our property. We shared the wild blackberries and blueberries that were on the bushes around our land with the bear and deer. Each anniversary Mary made a special cake to celebrate. Life was good until the great war came. My eye problems kept me at home and I felt useless.”
“Many of our family and friends never came home from that war. That year we didn’t celebrate our anniversary. Sadness overwhelmed us for Mary’s brother Jim, cousin Marvin and my brother Bob were among the causalities of the war.”
Mike rubbed his rheumy pale eyes. “It was a hard time, winter was cruel that year and in the spring the creek rose and flooded our cellar.”“Let’s give it a rest for now Gramps. We’ll take a short walk.” Hank said. He grabbed Mike’s cane, shouted to Mary “we’ll be back in time for lunch.”
It was noticeable. Mike was failing. Would there be another anniversary next year!
Marjorie entered the back door with a tray of sandwiches. “These are for our lunch, Mom. Let’s make a pot of tea and take them to the sun room! What does it feel like to celebrate 70 years of marriage to Mike?”
“Well Marjorie to let you In on a little secret, they haven’t all been happy years. No, there was a time when Mike and I went through a bad spell.”
“Do you want to talk about it? “Marjorie asked.
Mary settled in her comfy lounge chair. She took a salmon sandwich from the tray and Marjorie poured her a cup of tea.
“Number 15 was a rough time.” Mary said. “The cake I made was different. I put a cross in the middle and decorated it with white carnations, then I decorated the edges of the cake with pink roses. That was the year Mike and I were separated. I thought I’d lost him for good.”
“What happened?” Marjorie asked. “I’d have been about 16 then. I remember the separation.”
“Yes. You were a moody teenager. Difficult times for all.”
“Mom. Tell me more.”
“That was the year your father started drinking heavily. He lost his job with the county. Met a woman at the dance club and started dating her. One thing led to another and they were sleeping together and he was talking divorce. I never thought he’d be abusive but after he hit me twice, I took you and your brother and went to my cousin Sylvia’s. She was kind enough to take us in but only for a month.”
“How did you manage?”
“I decided I had to be the responsible parent. I enrolled at the community college in a book keeping course. I passed with honours and was hired by an accounting firm. My boss encouraged me to become an accountant.”
“What was Dad doing during that time?”
“I’d rather not say but he was up to no good. Passions ran high. He:moved in with that woman. It was embarrassing.”
“So how did you get back together?”
“It was that anniversary cake, the one with the cross. Every morning I took it out of the freezer and put it on the table. One day he came to the house to gather some of his things. I saw him staring at the cake. Maybe it brought back memories. That was the plan. I saw him pick up the phone and heard him say “ Donna, our fling is over.” Then he came looking for me, got down on one knee and said “Mary, please forgive me.l”
“I said ‘no’. I can’t just do that after what you put me through. You have to prove you’re serious. Get cleaned up and become a responsible father.”
“What happened then Mom?” Marjorie asked with tears in her blue eyes.
“It took two years of hard work and counselling. Slowly we became friends again and after another two years, Mike asked me to marry him – again and I said ‘Yes’”
“That year I made a replica of the cake with the cross. The number 20 was in the middle of the cross and I made it with the special flowers.”
Mary wiped her eyes. “That was a long time ago. Since then we’ve had many wonderful years! Lots of good memories.”
A knock at the door alerted the ladies it was time to get ready for the party that night. “I’ll help you dress Mom. Can I give you a touch of makeup? Your hair is so pretty? Don’t worry about anything. There’s plenty of family to help. Now you just rest in your chair until I come to get you.”
Guests started arriving at 7:00 p.m. sharp. Soon the table was filled with various casserole dishes, bottles of ciders, beer, lemonade, tea and coffee.
Stanley, Joe and Willie arrived with their fiddles and the party was started. Speeches were made but everyone agreed the best speech came from Mike.
“I would like to read a poem I’ve written to my beautiful wife, Mary.”
His eyes started to fill up.
“On this magical day I pledge another 70 years of love to the light of my life. At sixteen she was beautiful and she still is at 86. She brings me happiness and I’m so grateful for every year we share together.This anniversary is extra special. It’s our 70th. While it may be our last on earth, we’ll be celebrating in Heaven. The angels will make the celebratory cake on our anniversary. Love lives in our hearts.”
Hank shouted “Please, everyone, enjoy yourselves. May all your anniversaries be filled with love, happiness and contentment.”
That night, Mike and Mary danced the Anniversary waltz, said goodnight to their friends and family and went to their room. In bed, Mary gave Mike a hug and kiss. “Thank you for a lovely time tonight!” Mike returned the kiss and hug.
“ I love you so very much” he said as he dropped off to sleep, but Mary didn’t hear. In the morning they found the couple had passed in their sleep. Arms around each other with a beautiful smile on their faces.
This work is copyrighted by Dianne Day. Any unauthorized reproduction, alteration, distribution, or other use of this work is prohibited.