Fifty years ago, while the Summer of Love bloomed in Haight-Ashbury, another love story unfolded between the suburbs of New Jersey, the higher-learning institutions of Philadelphia and a simple neighborhood in upstate New York.
It was the year my parents were married — she a recent graduate of Chestnut Hill College and he a freshly minted lawyer with a Villanova pedigree. And when they sealed their union on July 29 in a lavish ceremony, they weren’t thinking about the hippies in San Francisco, or the race riots that had erupted that month in our nation’s inner cities.
They only had eyes for each other.
You can see it in those faded photos in their wedding album. They’re glowing, blissful, a little tipsy from the Champagne fountain.
They weren’t hippies — not by a longshot — but their love defied convention in its own way: The families, one full-blooded Italian and the other 100 percent Irish, considered this a mixed marriage back then. And rather than living in Morristown, NJ, where the Italian tribe had settled into comfortable lives, or in Albany where my father’s family had connections in state government, they set out to find their fate. First came a stint in Virginia with the Navy — that’s where my older sister and I were born in 1969 and 1970 — and then a move to Long Island where my father could make the easy commute to his job with the US Attorney’s Office there.
It’s easy, 50 years later, to cast an enduring marriage with an artificial glow. And looking at them now it seems their Golden Anniversary was a foregone conclusion.
But I was there during those years that make up the meat of matrimony, saw them struggle to understand and accept each other, watched them overcome and grow with the seasons. Their partnership survived the first wave of divorces that hit many of my friends’ parents in the 1970s and ’80s, lasted through the crises of middle age and an emptied nest, endured everything the world — and each other — dumped upon them based on the simple promise they made to each other that day in 1967. Through it all, they stood side by side — not always holding hands, but always together.
In that time they’ve taught me everything I needed to know about commitment, about family, about love.
Though they shrug off this 50-year accomplishment as inevitable, I am so proud of them and the arc of their marriage that they created, together.
And I hope my wife and I — 16 years into our wedded bliss — can live by their example.
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