March 16, 1967 is a day of significance in our family. Or should it be January 22? What about January 30, 1967?
Maybe it’s every day my parents have made the choice to uphold promises and honor commitments…
It’s difficult to say.
But, I digress.
Shall we begin at the beginning?
Robert Siplon, lovingly referred to as Bobby by his family, was trying to squeeze all he could out of celebrating his twenty-first birthday (come and gone the day before) one frigid night in January 1967. It wasn’t going well.
He and an old high school flame said their goodbyes after a lackluster date. Suffice to say the fire was doused. A real disappointment for Bobby, as he was home on leave from his first deployment to Vietnam and had been hoping the romance was still alive.
While slowly making his way to Mom and Dad’s, he noticed his friend, Jim, leaning into a car window. Upon further inspection, Bobby couldn’t help but take note of the pretty girl sitting in the driver seat.
Jim introduced his buddy, Bob, to the gal in the car, Linda. The three decided to make their way to the Franklin Bar for a drink. Never mind Linda was only nineteen and below drinking age. In small-town Michigan at 11pm on a random winter night, every paying customer was “of age.”
The three shared drinks and conversation, and Bob could see Jim was waiting for the opportunity to ask Linda out. Rather than excuse himself from the table to allow his friend the chance, Bob thought he’d try his luck and beat Jim to the punch.
For eight days, Bob and Linda spent each night together after Linda got off work (11pm) till the wee hours of the morning. They clocked one official date—a wedding reception for a friend of Bob’s.
While sitting in his mother’s living room, arms around Linda, Bob realized, in all likelihood, the next time he returned to Michigan on leave from the Navy, Linda would be long gone. She was only back in the area to make some money before returning to college with funds to pay for the remainder of her degree.
The next thought came out a question. “Do you want to be a sailor’s wife?”
Eight days. One date. And Linda agreed.
Plans were made for a June wedding upon Bob’s return to Michigan just before his next deployment. In the mean time, Bob returned to California to his work in the Navy.
Linda wore a modest pearl ring as evidence of her engagement. She resisted the notion she was making a mistake. Many people, including her future father-in-law tried to convince her Bob Siplon was not the right choice. But Linda, being Linda—strong willed, confident, and stubborn, was not to be persuaded. “Bob had honest eyes…it felt right.” And she’d already agreed to marry him.
The U.S. Navy had plans for Bob too, which included early second deployment to Vietnam. Instead of pushing back their wedding for what would be more than a year, they moved it up. Linda flew out to sunny San Diego, California to wed in March.
March 16, 1967, in a courthouse, with two friends as witnesses, Bob and Linda…for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part—agreed.
And they have lived up to those vows.
Five naval tours in Vietnam.
Three states of residence, where “home” meant anything from living in with family, to a tent at a KOA campground, an apartment, trailer house, and eventually, 40+ acres and a five bedroom home their former selves would never have imagined they could afford.
Four children who are now adults…all of whom have cheated death at one time or another, effectively teaching Bob and Linda the intimate joy, challenge, and struggle of parenting.
Countless jobs for both Bob and Linda. A career as a firefighter wasn’t something Bob planned, but his 28 years of service proved the accidental plan was a good one. A return to college, as a mother of four, at age forty for Linda.
Her college plans were once again interrupted as they had been when she was nineteen. A several months long battle with a septic staff infection in her leg tried to cheat her of her degree…and her life. It failed—she didn’t.
Her nursing degree came in handy when Bob was involved in a severe car accident that fractured his spine in multiple locations.
They have buried four parents together and more than a few friends and relatives.
They have welcomed five grandchildren…lovingly watch and help them grow.
The truth is…no amount of words will adequately capture what has gone on in the last fifty years for Bob and Linda. That is part of the beauty and mystery of a marriage lasting a variable lifetime.
When I asked my dad, “How does a married couple make it to their 50th anniversary?”
He answered, “I don’t know. There isn’t a secret. But I told my own sons, marry a smart woman. You don’t want a clinging vine. You want a partner. When times got tough, your mother grew tougher. Bad times are okay. They are normal.” He paused. “The thing I can tell you about being married to Linda for the last fifty years, is I have a lifetime to look back on and I can see I always had her in my corner. She always had my back…and I had her’s.” He laughed. “The irony is I didn’t know this when I asked her to marry me. I didn’t even know I was going to ask her. I just did. And I got lucky. She was hot… and I knew if I didn’t ask her to marry me, someone else would. She was so much smarter than I was when we got married, and she’s tough. I didn’t know how important that was until after we’d been married. Turns out I’m just a lucky guy.”
When I asked my mother the same question, she laughed before saying, “We agreed whoever asked for the divorce would also have to take the kids.” She laughed again, took another moment, and added, “As long as the because of list is longer than the in spite of list, you’ve got a good thing going—you know—something good, worth keeping.”
Wise words from a smart woman and a lucky man.
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad. We love you more than words….on this we can ALL agree.
Here’s to smart women, lucky men, and many more years of something good, worth keeping.
I can’t hear this song and not think of my parents. It’s their song. I love it…and them.