Silver Linings

Libby Znaimer | October 13th, 2015

It’s the kind of milestone I associate with our parents’ generation. Doug and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage. “To the same person!” he quips every time the subject comes up.

Did I mention that one secret to a long union is laughing at your husband’s jokes? What is astonishing to me, in fact, almost surreal, is the stark fact of how much time has passed. Where did it go?

We decided to mark the occasion with a big party and, interestingly, the planning has provided an opportunity to take stock of how much has changed and what endures. We both have great jobs that we appreciate all the more after recovering from mid-life career setbacks. Doug just started a new role in a new organization – the most challenging ever, he says. I will meet his closest colleagues for the first time at the party. They won’t be the only ones who wouldn’t recognize us from the wedding invitation photo we used on our e-vite.

“Nice blond hair,” snickered Mike, a friend I met through volunteer work. “Is Doug’s moustache real?” asked Peter, his cycling buddy.

Half of our wedding party will be there. My parents and Doug’s mother are gone. My brother Sam has a different spouse. Our wedding took place nearly four years before our nephew Leith was born. He’ll be attending the party with a girlfriend, his second serious girlfriend.

One of my bridesmaids is coming – we are still very close, probably closer than we were 25 years ago. The other is travelling and would be here otherwise. But while we keep in touch, the fact is we see each other rarely and mostly for old times’ sake. “Wonderful moment,” wrote William, Doug’s best man. “I’ll be there.”

It is a special moment, and the friendships that have lasted through our quarter-century together deserve to be celebrated as much as our anniversary.

But it’s also worth noting those that have fallen away. On my side, there was a large contingent from the TV station where I worked. I had allowed the issue of whom to invite to get a bit political – no wonder we now have no connection with many of people in our wedding pictures. There were also quite a few people from Ottawa, where Doug and I met. We lost touch with some, but Jane and Dave, our closest friends from that time, just moved to Toronto, and we see them frequently.

Our wedding anniversary is inextricably tied to my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. That happened on our 18th. The number 18 has a special significance in Jewish culture. It means life. One of the irrational things that went through my head in that terrible moment was: “I can’t be getting a death sentence on my 18th anniversary.” It wasn’t – so this party also marks seven years cancer-free. Both my doctors will be honoured guests, and so will some of my colleagues on the board of Pancreatic Cancer Canada.

This is the third time we will be throwing an anniversary bash. The first was 15 years ago, and some guests have known us long enough to have been at all three – the second was our 20th – and I was two years cancer-free. But the new people in our lives are a special blessing. We have met them through work, hobbies, trips and other friends. It takes a lot of time and effort to transform a casual meeting for a mutual interest into a friendship.

But it‘s worth it. I’m convinced that the ability to make new connections and form new relationships is one of the keys to health and happiness in our later years. Like everything else it’s about getting the balance right – between the old and the new, stability and change, familiarity and difference.

I still can’t decide which way to go with the dress. There’s a new one in a fabulous shade of green, and there’s my wedding dress – or at least part of it. Twenty-five years ago, I had it designed to be taken apart and worn again as a cocktail outfit. Of course, the only times I donned it were for our anniversary parties.

“It’s so sentimental to wear your wedding dress,” says my fashion-forward friend Bill. My girlfriends are also pushing for that choice. I may not decide until the day arrives. But whether I choose nostalgia or novelty, they are both the fabrics of our life.