A Very Merry Unanniversary

In late June of 1985, I was invited to do a poetry reading of After the Fire at a retreat for newly widowed folks.  The retreat was held at a YMCA camp on the far side of Tacoma, and I went there with a good deal of misgiving.  Yes, the book told the story of the loss of my own spouse, but at the time my first husband died, we’d been divorced for a year and a half.  The other people attending the retreat were all still married when their spouses died.

At lunch that Saturday, one of the attendees introduced me to a man named Bill, “a guy you have to meet,” but I was nervous about my upcoming poetry reading, and to say I was distracted during lunch is something of an understatement.  And when I did said poetry reading, Bill didn’t show up.  No surprises there.  For him that day, less than six months after the death of his wife, what he needed was a solitary walk on the beach.

That evening, after dinner there was a grief support workshop where people, gathered in a circle, were supposed to say our name and our spouse’s name, along with when and how they died.  In the course of those introductions, I learned that Bill’s wife, Lynn, had died of breast cancer two years to the day after my husband died of alcoholism.  They both died a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Needless to say, I was struck by that coincidence.  Later, still in the circle, we were expected to share.  I recounted that I’d been on my own for five years.  No one was ringing my doorbell at Bay Vista, so obviously my life as a woman was over.  I was raising my kids, writing my books, and making the best of a bad bargain.  Then, having shared my story, I waited to see what Bill would say.  He said NOTHING!

So when the sharing session was over, I went looking for him.  I found him out by the bonfire, roasting marshmallows.  I marched up to him with a chip on my shoulder and demanded, “So what are you, the strong silent type?”  “No,” he answered.  “It still hurts too much to talk about it.”

Those were our opening lines.  Within five minutes, I was literally crying on his shoulder, thinking to myself: This is so stupid, but it feels so good.

And it was good.  I’ve retold the story countless times over the years, how we met on the 21st of June, the longest day of the year, and married on the 21st of December, the longest night of the year.  As I write these words, it’s thirty two years to the day.  So Happy Anniversary, right?  WRONG!

We were on the cruise when my editor asked me if I could please write an emergency novella.  I came up with the idea of Beau working a cold case in my upcoming novella, Still Dead, due out August 8. While I was writing, I pressed the easy button and gave the old crime a familiar time frame–Saturday, June 21, 1985.  No need to check on that detail because, after all, it’s a cornerstone of our family’s history.

The copy-editing came back yesterday, and the first message from Eleanor, the copy editor, was a bright red block around that date, and a note from her saying that the applicable Saturday in June, 1985, was actually the twenty-second!

You could have knocked me over with a feather!  For more than thirty years, reality be damned, I’ve told the story my way, and the power of storytelling is such that it can completely override facts.

The upshot is this.  Today is June 21st.  Bill and I are celebrating our anniversary today, because, regardless of the calendar saying otherwise, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A very Merry Unanniversary to us!  Thirty two years, minus one day, and counting.

14 thoughts on “A Very Merry Unanniversary

  1. July 1, 1965 and April 2, 1966 … the day I met her and the day I married her. Two VERY important anniversaries that we still celebrate TOGETHER.

  2. dates are just numbers. memories are our heart’s way to honor meaning. so don’t be concerned with details, dear heart…”a rose is a rose is a rose…”
    congratulations to you both and the hell with others’ declarations.
    om mani padme hum!

  3. Congrats on your anniversary regardless of the date! Did you do like me and pull up the calendar to double check the copy editor? Here’s to many more Unanniversaries! Love your books!!!

  4. We celebrate the Saturday after Thanksgiving as our anniversary so your UnAnnersary makes perfect sense to me. Happy years together, no matter the day!

  5. What a wonderful story to read about. You were one of the first authors that I began to read in series form. I met you in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the SOKY authors fest. My husband was the gentleman who realized that he had been on a plane with you many years ago and remembered your story. What a joy to read your blog today. My husband and I were also married on the longest day of the year in 1974. Happy unanniversary!!!

  6. My exhusband & I celebrated our anniversary a day late for 9 years of our marriage. September 26th instead of 25th. The 1st we wanted to celebrate on a Saturday instead of a week night. Every year after that we did on 26th. We only figured it when we divorced & saw the date on marriage license. Oddly, we thought somehow that would invalidate the final divorce decree. My son chose September 25 for his wedding date!

  7. I bet somewhere in the world it was already saturday, when you had 21 june 1985.

    Still Dead
    8 august, is that the release date on amazon kindle too?
    I can’t find any info there yet, sadly.

  8. I was married on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. We had to work it into the Navy’s schedule. My then husband was soon to go on a six-month cruise to the Far East.
    We divorced some years later on Columbus Day. Easy to remember.

  9. The Summer Solstice in 1985 was Friday, June 21, 1985 at 3:44 am in Tacoma, making Saturday June 22, the first full day of Summer, which most people believe is the longest day. It wasn’t that year because the Solstice occurred before sunrise. You were likely told sometime during the 22nd that it was the longest day of the year, and believed it.

  10. May 3, 1970… 47 years. Some good some bad .I am Thankful for the time we have been together. We are in Our Golden years. What we didn’t realized the real Golden Years was when we were raising our Daughter, fishing, working JOBS we love.
    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY , Hug your spouse…. Jan

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