December 15th. Today was a typical gray, wintry day. After a week of sunshine, the leaden sky threatened rain. The water in our backyard birdbath was frozen solid, while the suet feeder in the leafless magnolia was barely visible under a lively cluster of tiny juncos.
It was a similar gray, wintry day on December 15, 1966 when I waved goodbye to my parents and drove toward the Portland bus station. I’ll see him in just an hour!
Larry was traveling north on a bus from Fresno, near his home in California. Since September, when we had spent concentrated time together and precipitously agreed to get married, our frequent letters made the long weeks of separation bearable. Now he was coming for a visit, to ask my father’s permission to marry me and put an engagement ring on my left hand.
Although I treasured our correspondence, we quickly learned that letters were a poor substitute for face to face conversation. Occasionally a hastily-written missive produced misunderstanding, and the delay between sending a letter and receiving a reply sometimes brought doubt and anxiety. Now we would be together for another brief week, able to say everything left unsaid in the months apart.
As I sat tensely in the bus terminal waiting room, I wondered if the warmly-dressed matron sitting beside me could hear my pounding heart. I ran to the doorway when a bus pulled into the inbound lane and a voice came over the scratchy speaker: “Continental Trailways from Los Angeles and points south arriving in Lane Two.” A line of passengers straggled off the bus, and then I saw him. His smile answered mine, and when he wrapped his arms around me, the love in his eyes scattered all the anxious thoughts that had fluttered in my mind. I leaned against him, safe and content; I could wait until the privacy of my car for his kiss.
Like all long-lasting marriages, we’ve experienced challenge and disappointment as well as joy and satisfaction in our five decades together. But I’m immeasurably grateful to still feel safe and content in Larry’s arms.