Posted by: zhak39 | November 16, 2008

Fifty Years

I was telling some folks I work with about being away for a few days. When I told them about my parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary there were the murmurings of wonderful, and really. Of course one fellow, our office codger had a couple of things to say.

“That hardly happens anymore,” he said. He’d been married for almost fifty years, just not to the same women. He asked about mom and dad. He used the word ‘endurance’ a few times, as if we were talking about a long distance sporting event or perhaps torture.

Something about his posture sparked my memory. I thought about being bounced on dad’s shoulders as he ran the bases in a softball game with Quentin Cox. I thought about how tenderly he held each successive grandchild in infancy. I remember his enthusiasm planning school projects and how he explains the phrases of crow song to Helen on summer mornings. I thought about how many times I saw mom sitting on a hard wooden bench offering support and applause as Kathleen finessed a volleyball over the net or Michael once again topped his classes. Then I thought about how we get to applaud her as she grows through her artistic endeavors. And that’s when I remembered the candle trick.

We used to play a game some nights after the dishes were cleared away and only remnants and stains remained around the tall brass candleholders. One of us would lick a thumb and finger and quick, pinch out the flame on a candle. Another would so carefully tip the companion candle into the smoke trail. If the distance and angle were just right, plink, the snuffed candle would relight.

We would repeat this trick any number of times, inevitably dribbling wax on the table cloth. Every time was a marvel. The first flame was definitely out. The second didn’t even flicker before magically teleporting its heat and light. The fire transcended distance instantaneously. It worked backwards and forwards; either candle could be snuffed and the other never failed to rekindle it. The candles could change, they would be beige or white, they might be tall and elegant or soft and stumpy. Of the pair, they usually burned evenly but distinctly. One might make a dribbling wax trail, the other melt away silently. But always, the flame was steady and sure.

I see and feel that candlelight whenever I remember to look. I see it in Kathy’s smile. Even from a picture, I see it in Leah’s eyes and the pink of Anna’s cheek. I feel it in my heart those days at work when the phone rings for the 43rd time in an hour but this time its Sam calling to say good morning, yeah, I’m up. And when my flame is flagging, I feel it being renewed by mom with her empathy and Chris with his humor and Helen with her quiet steadfastness and unquestioning positive regard.

My colleague was standing in front of my desk bemoaning the fortune he’s squandered in alimony, not expecting any kind of answer. All I could give him was this.

“They’ve learned to live the candle trick.”


  1. Jackie ….your writing is so beautiful it always makes me cry.

  2. What else is a meta phor?

  3. Well, first of all, I apologize for not responding to this sooner. Had I seen it, I would have responded immediately.

    Second of all, congratulations Dan and Pat. During the brief time I knew you, I was always impressed by your closeness, and the love your children had (and clearly have) for you.

    Third, good Lord! When did you get married? When you both were 10? Was that even legal? When I think about it, had my mom lived, my parents (who I thought were your age) would have celebrated only their 48th this year. And you two seemed much more youthful than they.

    (Perhaps it was the 3-pack a day cigarette habit the two had . . . . FOREVER).

    Fourth, according to a local jeweler, there is some statistic out in the universe that says married folks live longer than single folks. You appear to embody that. I just want to live to 50. After that, let’s talk.

    Honestly, God bless. You are an inspiration.

  4. Good morning, Bill. I will pass on your kind words to mom and dad. I know that you have little reason to go to their area. If you do, stop by. They will feed you.

    Look back later in the week. I have a couple of pictures that might give you an idea of how young they were when they married. They were a little older than ten. Some folks at my former job commented that they somewhat resembled Gidget and Moondoggie from a series of movies you might have seen on channel 11 some Saturday morning a few years ago.

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