I just returned from helping my parents celebrate their 70th anniversary (no, that is not a typo).
There were 200 people at the anniversary party last Saturday, including two who had been at the original event in 1944: My mother’s sister (her maid-of-honor) and a classmate of my Dad’s. Following is the toast I gave last Saturday:
We are here to honor longevity, but my parents’ marriage and this occasion represent a great deal more than just time spent together.
In 30 years of active duty, Jane and Paul made six coast-to-coast transfers, lived in 17 houses, attended at least that many churches, raised three children, and made it all into an adventure. When I look back on my youth, it’s with some awe that I realize the energy that my parents put into creating our lives and making our childhoods as seamless as possible: Finding a house, enrolling us in school and supporting disparate youth activities, exploring our new city, wherever we happened to be. And then starting all over again somewhere else in another three or so years.
And it’s clear that everywhere Jane and Paul have landed, they have created community, and they have built a home. Wherever they have been, they have made good friends, which is why there are so many of us in this room today.
When I told friends that my parents were about to celebrate their 70th anniversary they were astounded. When I told them that the party was planned for 200 people, they were speechless.
What’s the secret of Jane and Paul’s success? My parents would say that longevity isn’t good for much if it isn’t partnered with loyalty and love.
It hasn’t always been easy. I think my siblings would agree that growing up a Peak wasn’t for the faint-of-heart. Jane and Paul set high standards and expected us to live up to them. They still do, of course, and now the grandchildren get the brunt of those expectations. Among the life lessons Jane and Paul have imparted to us is the reality that loyalty and love go hand-in-hand. Dad has always found tremendous meaning in being part of something larger than himself – the Coast Guard is the most obvious example, but so are all the volunteer organizations to which he has belonged. Twenty years ago, Dad claimed current or previous membership in 35 tax-exempt organizations. The number has only grown since then.
And my parents may have slowed down in their activities, but just barely. You may be aware that Jane is currently serving a three-year term on her college Alumni Board. This requires her to travel to Connecticut College for board meetings and, last month at graduation, it found her in academic procession, complete in cap-and-gown.
Longevity, loyalty, and love. Love for country, and unconditional love for family. In August, Jane and Paul will be heading to San Diego for a gathering of the Peak clan, including all three of Dad’s brothers. Roger and Nicki and I grew up attending these Peak reunions, and again, we – and our cousins — thought they were normal. Today, I would more specifically describe them as awesome.
Jane and Paul’s unconditional love for their children and grandchildren doesn’t keep them from getting exasperated by our antics at times, but any criticism has always been leveled at the act, not at the actor. And more typically, their enthusiasm and support for our activities is boundless to the point of embarrassment.
Seventy years is a long time. It’s so long that the gemstone people don’t come up with a special stone for the year; they just keep on repeating diamonds. Hallmark doesn’t bother putting out a specific card. Seventy years is so long, in fact, that it’s remarkably close to one-third the age of our nation. Jane and Paul have been working on their genealogy for a long time, and now they have become ancestors in their own right. And like all good ancestors, they have created a legacy for those who come after them. A legacy of love and loyalty – as well as longevity.
So let’s raise our glasses in a toast to Jane and Paul.