Life in Retirement: Reaching 50th wedding anniversary and other anomalies

I had the loveliest time at my cousin’s 50th wedding anniversary gathering recently. It felt like one of those disappearing cultural milestones, like a mortgage burning party or converting your child’s bedroom to a sewing room when they finally leave home. Not all of us get there anymore, but we sure love to celebrate with those who do!

The anniversary party took place in Calgary – all family gatherings are in Calgary, since only a couple of us from my family have ever left that city. I mean, dating all the way back to when my great-grandparents settled in the area in 1900 – only a few years after it even became a city. Both my parents were born in Calgary, as were all four of us kids. My dad went on to have his entire 33-year career at The General Hospital, which meant that all of us kids had our first jobs there. His brother, my uncle whose daughter is the cousin celebrating 50 years with her husband (if you’re following this family tree) had an equally long career at another Calgary landmark. My family – immediate, extended and everything in between – is pretty dug in.

All of this made arriving to the hall that day feel like time-traveling to me. So many of the very same people were gathered in just the same way on the wedding day 50 years before. Well, not quite the same way – that’s a lot of time for a person to change! Or in my case, to grow up from a young girl to a young senior. I mean the gathering felt the same – festive and warm and happy. There were many people missing, of course, as the entire generation of our parents and aunts and uncles has passed. Happily, many spots are filled by spouses and children, as the next generation filled the room in the great circle of life.

There was a display of wedding photos on a table, with a bright spring bouquet that replicated the original bride’s bouquet from that long-ago day. And just beside that was the wedding dress itself, hanging on one of those dressmaker stands and seeming to lend an actual presence to the room. My photographer’s eye was struck by that, and I asked my cousins to stand near it for pictures. The juxtaposition of the slightly faded and old-fashioned wedding dress, worn long ago with great fervor and optimism, just a few short feet from where my cousins are now. That distance, as with any life, is more accurately measured in great big joys and enormous sorrows – and countless uneventful days in between.

We shared the spirited afternoon and left happy. My cousins are well and seem happy in their lives. It felt like a moment in time when you reflect on other moments in time and see all the years that have gone by. And know that life is good.

Sandy Bexon is stepping into retirement after over 35 years as a communications professional, reporter and writer. She lives in Red Deer.

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