That would be 71 years, not 51 years

Better Half and I were sitting on the back porch when I mentioned it was Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary.

It was Sept. 20th, I pointed out. They would have been married 51 years.

He gave me that look — very similar to the look I get when he is reviewing the checkbook, trying to make sense of what I pass off as basic math.

He corrected me — no red pen here or smartelecky commentary on my “new math” calculations. Just a casual observation that I was a mere 20 years off, that they would have been married 71 years, not 51, dingleberry, an affectionate term of Better Half’s for a wife who is no numbers whiz.

I think I meant to say that, but regrettably hadn’t, necessitating me to say instead two words I hate to have to say to him, two words that give me pronunciation angst.

“You’re right,” I ponied up the addition apology, wincing.

At any rate, my parents would have been celebrating a marital milestone, which got me to thinking about what I knew of their courtship and marriage.

Sept. 20, 1946, they “went away” to get married in “Little Washington, Pa.,” by a Justice of the Peace named Charlie Brown.

“Good grief,” seems the appropriate response here.

They were not getting married in a church because my dad was not Catholic as my mother had been raised. Her parents weren’t too happy about that either, although they grew to love my dad, accept their marriage and honor their decision to worship as Methodists.

I don’t know what exactly my no-nonsense mother wore, but hanging in a spare closet is my dad’s ocean blue and white pin-striped suit he donned for his “I do” day.

There aren’t any wedding pictures, not surprisingly, and my mother being my mother, would never have gone for any of that silly stuff like showers. Such things were for watering gardens and flower beds.

Actually, it’s amazing to me and my siblings that our mother found time for romance at all. She was the bookworm type, an attractive gal for sure, but not at all interested in boys. It was more like books and butterflies and biology.

My mother was the valedictorian of Wheeling High School’s Class of 1941 and valedictorian of her West Liberty State College class with a double major no less.

My parents had a brief courtship. My dad, a Richmond boy, had returned home from the Army during World War II. My mother was teaching at Jefferson Union High School, living “uptown” in Richmond.

If I’m remembering the story right, my dad had been stood up by a date; my mother had assumed she would be selling tickets at a J.U. basketball game but wasn’t needed after all.

The two sulked over their sad Saturday statuses in a Richmond restaurant where the owner had been promising my dad there was someone she wanted him to meet, a pretty gal from Wheeling who was teaching at the high school, who lived across the street from the restaurant and ate there sometimes. My mother-to-be.

Ruth Ann, this is Wendell. Wendell, this is Ruth Ann.

They had their first date that night at the Grand Theater in Steubenville where they watched “Ten Little Indians.”

Though their courtship was brief, their marriage endured.

They made a handsome couple, early photos are testimony to that, although children never think of their parents as people attractive to each other, wildly in love with each other.

Their marriage persevered, despite my mother’s occasional threats to run away to Peru at Christmas.

When my dad died in 1993, they were at the 47-year mark. These days, sadly, my father’s face — be it in his Army uniform or in their last church directory picture together — no longer rings familiar to my mother.

We threw a surprise anniversary party for them on their 42nd anniversary simply because all five of us kids managed to be together. That was 1989. We had a good time, some good laughs, and gave them some goofy gifts, including handcuffs, a little something to keep them together.

Better Half and I have been together a spell now, too, a few decades.

But if my new math is right, it probably seems more like a hundred to him.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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