Sixty years ago I was a boy groom. While I am no longer a boy, I am still Jane Twining Osterhoudt’s groom, and very happy I am. (You can see why the three-letter surname attracted her.)
There’s one flaw with a sixtieth wedding anniversary. Many more have gone by than lie ahead.
But there are so many glorious memories. And, we are our memories--which of course makes for an immense tragedy when one partner’s memory goes, and the other’s memory remains. So far, so good.
If only every marriage could be like ours...but then, you might not want it our way.
As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I know three things destroy marriages. For many years--too much my first years in practice--I asked tearful patients (I’m a sucker for women’s tears) to bring their willing husbands in after office hours. And I gratuitously tried to help, completely ignoring my limited qualifications or available time.
I tapered off because Jane reminded me she was home with a passel of kids. I chose my marriage, not theirs, but only after a few years when I wondered what was wrong. Not years of totally wine and roses.
Jane and I met in September 1943, married in 1947. We had our first child in December 1949. And our first car in 1951. We waited, and everything turned out so well, I am a believer in delayed gratification. And have probably praised it too often to others.
Yes, there was a time when nearly every one expected to have many children. That’s where Baby Boomers came from.
So a second child came in 14 months, another in 16 months, a fourth in 23 months, and a fifth 19 months later. Yes, our eldest was five when our fifth child was born. Ridiculous? Maybe, but it seemed to work so well.
As an obstetrician, shouldn’t I have known better? Without asking others’ opinions, we mutually proceeded because Jane seemed to thrive. She wore the same knit dress home after each of our first five children, and returned to her prenatal weight nearly immediately.
In 1959 Rise showed up, a long 41 months later, and leading to the repeated statement, “We have all boys, except five.” I ask her where she would be if we had had only six children. She looks at me like I’m nuts.
Oh yes, the three hitches in matrimonial bliss that I noted fifty years ago are still the big three today--I find by talking to many married and near-married college students today. The problem areas seem epidemic today, only endemic then.
In not any particular order, but closely related, they are money, drugs and sex.
Jane wrote advertising and her good salaries carried us through our first years (1945-1950). After babies began coming, with M.D. in hand I moonlighted nights as an emergency room physician for $30 a night.
From my first Air Force officer’s check until now, our “needs” have not exceeded our pocketbooks. We were lucky to live in years when a rising tide raised nearly everyone’s standard of living. Because the marginal federal income tax was 70%, the economy flourished
Today, kids and families work their butts off--two and three jobs--to get better educations, better jobs and better incomes. But it is getting harder and harder to do with taxes skewed to reward the upper 10% of earners.
Drugs and alcohol are pretty obvious marriage and life destroyers. People drink because of money and sex problems, compounding unhappiness. But drink and drugs may come first. Part is cultural; part may be genetic.
Finally, sex. We seldom see testimonials for monogamy. Not serial monogamy, but lifetime monogamy. Well, here is one. I suspect certain predatory sexual transgressions are addictive. But I know if you never start, you will never have to stop.
Or maybe, the two swans floating gently on an idyllic pond in a New Yorker cartoon had it right. Caption: “Do you think we are monogamous just because we are lazy?”
Whatever, monogamy can work--for eternity.
We omitted “until death do us part,” from our wedding vows September 7 1947.
Dr. Roy may be reached at email@example.com