Thirty years

Dec. 15, 1979: Alton, Illinois

Thirty years. Three decades. Three hundred and sixty months.  One thousand, five hundred and sixty weeks or 10,957 days.

Nobody expected it to last, this union of a hard-drinking, hard-living newspaperman and an actress from St. Louis — both wary from failed first marriages.

Some people describe their marriage as a melodrama. Amy and I met in one. The little theater company in Alton, Illinois, staged a charity melodrama for the summer. They brought in a professional actress to anchor the cast: Amy Davis, who honed her stage skills as the resident heroine at the Goldenrod Showboat on the St. Louis Riverfront. Once they had a heroine they went searching for the perfect villain so they turned to the bad-boy newspaper columnist for the local paper.

Amy remembered me from her days at Southern Illinois University when I showed up at a party with one of the campus party girls as a date. What she remembered she didn’t like.

I wasn’t looking for any entanglements either. Since my divorce several years earlier I played the field. My idea of a long-term relationship was a three-day weekend.

But we weren’t prepared for the chemistry. It hit both of us without warning even as we tried to ignore it. For the first time in the history of melodramas, the villain landed the heroine.

So, on a cold December night, 30 years ago today, we stood in the living room of the home of Rev. Lawrence W. Jackman, assistant pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alton, and exchanged rings and vows with his wife, their two children and a dog and a cat as witnesses. Afterward, we took the Jackmans to dinner in St. Louis.

During dinner, I asked a question: “When did the marriage ceremony change?”

“It hasn’t,” Larry replied. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, as I recall, you didn’t pronounce us man and wife.”

“I didn’t? Give me your hands.”

We joined hands at the dinner table of a restaurant in Westport Plaza in St. Louis County as Jackman completed the wedding ceremony by saying: “By the power vested in me, I pronounce you man and wife.” As he spoke,  the waiter walked up with our entrees.

“Tell me,” the waiter said. “Is this like getting married by the captain of a ship?”

We laughed.

We’ve laughed a lot more during the past three decades. We’ve laughed with, and at, each other for a long time now.

None of our friends expected our marriage to last 30 weeks, much less 30 years.

Guess we got the last laugh on them.

Happy anniversary my love.

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