This week my wife and I will mark 31 years since we donned some outlandish outfits, stood up in front of a crowd and said "I do."
Never does a day go by when we don't thank our lucky stars that we found each other. This becomes more and more true as the years go by and the inevitable signs of aging begin to appear. Between memory lapses and hearing loss and myopia, it takes the two of us to add up to one functional person.
Love doesn't always arrive the way it did with my wife and I: when one is young and starry-eyed and full of hope and hormones. Sometimes soul mates don't find each another until the autumn of their years.
Al and Sylvia are just such a couple.
Al, a former farm kid who grew up in the Estelline area, has worked as a mechanical designer at an electronics firm for 33 years. Sylvia is originally from Sioux City, Iowa and works with the developmentally disabled. She has also been deeply involved with community theater for the past 17 years.
"We found each other on an online dating service," said Al. "We emailed for a while, then decided to meet in Pipestone for a meal and see how things went."
"Things went fabulously," said Sylvia of their first date. "We sat and talked for more than three hours. And we kept right on talking as Al walked me out to my car. Then we got into my car and necked like teenagers."
Al and Sylvia quickly became an item. No one can recall exactly when it happened, but their names soon morphed into one word, as in, "We bumped into Al-and-Sylvia at the arts festival."
Their decision to plunge into the sea of matrimony was made during a shopping expedition this past Christmas.
As Al and Sylvia strolled the aisles of a department store, Al pointed to the jewelry display and suggested that perhaps Sylvia would like an item from inside the glass case.
"Don't get me anything like that unless it means something," Sylvia replied.
"OK," said Al. "How about if it's an engagement ring and we get married?"
"OK, fine," said Sylvia. They then continued shopping. It wasn't until later that she realized the magnitude of what had just transpired: at the threshold of their sixth decades, she and Al were going to get married!
Al and Sylvia's wedding ceremony was held at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center, a fitting venue given Sylvia's passion for the theater. Their invitations encouraged lady guests put on dresses they thought they would never wear again. Men were instructed to wear whatever made them feel comfortable.
As my wife and I took our seats in the Performing Arts Center, we noticed a plethora of bridesmaids and prom dresses gliding about. Men were generally wearing Hawaiian shirts or T-shirts. Shorts and jeans abounded.
The wedding party took the stage. The groom and groomsmen were decked out in dark jeans and tuxedo T-shirts. Sylvia took her place wearing a dress that contained all 17 colors of the rainbow.
When Sylvia and Al read their vows to each other, Sylvia first had to don a pair of reading glasses.
"These are just a prop," she insisted, causing a hearty chuckle to wash over the assembly.
Instead of lighting a unity candle, Al and Sylvia poured sand from two small vials into a larger one. This was to symbolize the merging of their families and their friends; one could no more separate their newly-joined lives than sort out the individual gains of sand.
Sylvia then made a short speech to Al. Before she began her prepared remarks, Sylvia blurted in a voice that was choked with emotion, "All I ever wanted was to find someone to love me as much as my dad loved my mom and I think you do."
Many of the ladies - and more than a few of the men - suddenly found it necessary to wipe their eyes.
A reception was held in the theater lobby while the stage was transformed into a dance floor. The rhythmic thump of dance tunes soon began to reverberate throughout the building.
My wife and I watched the dancers for a while. It was good to see that folks our age can still "get down" although we may need help getting back up. We can still "shake it" even though there's generally more to shake. We also have to rest more often.
There were whoops and cheers as Al and Sylvia danced for the first time as husband and wife, the first steps of their journey into a brisk and vibrant autumn.