Editor’s Note: When I wrote this column I had no idea how many milestones would be created in a short time. When my wife,Shirley, had to go back to Maryland to be at her ill brother’s side it was the first time she’s ever been on the east coast. This Wednesday, which I was looking forward to when I wrote this column, will be the kind of milestone I could do without: it’ll be the first time in 37 years we haven’t been together to celebrate our marriage.
By Dave Stancliff
Life is a series of milestones on the road to your last breath. There are good and bad milestones. We remember both with equal passion.
I’m looking forward to Wednesday, when my wife and I celebrate our 37th Wedding Anniversary. It doesn’t seem that many years have passed since Shirley and I tied the knot in Fullerton, California. Where has the time gone?
Excuse me for a moment. Nostalgia clings like a cloak when I recall all the milestones we’ve experienced together. What a road! What a roller coaster! What a trip thus far! The road ahead, regardless of how bumpy, is something to look forward to with Shirley at my side.
I heartedly agree with author C.S. Lewis who said, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
I quit trying to rank milestones years ago. Our wedding was the standard until our first son was born. Then our second son was born. A couple of years later, our third son was born and all attempts at ranking milestones became null and void.
Then there were the progress milestones Shirley and I shared as each child learned to walk and talk. When that magic moment came and each one said, “ Mommy and Daddy” for the first time it was a moment forever inscribed in our hearts. And when that first step was taken, our hearts melted with the knowledge that our baby was growing up, no matter what we wanted.
Swedish ABBA singer, Agnetha Faltskog, who was born the same year I was (1950) said, “My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones.” I like the way she put that. A good positive outlook.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to dwell on your personal milestones too often. One day a year spent celebrating our first milestone, marriage, doesn’t seem too excessive to me. As Rose Kennedy once said, “Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments.”
Another thought about milestones is we sometimes aren’t aware of experiencing them until years later. A prominent American civil rights leader, Susan B. Anthony once said: “Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”
My memories, when I allow them to march by, are a patchwork quilt of successes and failures that have become milestones with time. Some of those milestones bear the weight of bitter memories and loss of innocence during an unpopular war. They stand like black granite columns inscribed with the names of my dead comrades.
In everything, I’ve found there is a balance. Without bad we wouldn’t know good. Grief gives way to joy. Death follows birth. Knowledge comes when we learn how little we know.
I like the imagery in milestones. There’s a sense of permanence. Importance. A feather in the cap. A firm footprint in the sands of life. A neon sign for the world to see what you’ve done thus far.
What some people see as a major milestone in life, a career in whatever for example, may not be as important to you as other goals achieved through years of living and learning. As much a milestone as our 37th wedding anniversary is, it stands side-by-side with many others.
Falling in love ought to be a milestone, but who can date that revelation when it’s such a gradual process? Who can say for sure when their heart skipped that extra beat in excitement? What day? What hour? What minute?
In the end, milestones are markers of our making. People will judge us by how we treated them. We’ll be known by our public works. We’ll also be known by our personal relationships. Spouse, father or mother, daughter or son. Grandparent. Aunt or uncle. Cousin.
As It Stands, remembering good milestones, like wedding anniversaries, is strongly recommended to assure another good one next year!
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