Carl and Joan Abrams were married 59 years ago today. They have hit a milestone that most people can't even begin to imagine, yet we all desire when we initially meet our future spouse. Many promise something similar in their wedding vows (ie. I hope to spend my next 70 years with you) and note in anniversary cards. Many marriages end many decades before reaching such a milestone, and sadly many marriages end because one of the spouses fails to survive much past their 59th birthday, let alone 59 years of marriage. I can honestly say I have never met a couple who has reached this landmark anniversary.
In my many years of working in paramedicine, I have seen so many people in their 80s who live in nursing facilities alone with very little ability to do anything for themselves or anyone else. Hell, when I was truly a young lad I always pictured people in their 60s and older as being so infirm that they could barely survive without constant medical assistance. Yet my grandparents have completely shattered that notion for me and made me pity many of my patients who were at least 20 years their junior who had so many medical problems that I got to see them on a constant basis when they had 911 dispatch me to take them to the ER for whatever was ailing them on that particular day.
My grandparents live in New Jersey, barely a block away from my mother (by choice not necessity), they ride their tandem bicycle everywhere imaginable, my grandfather cooks some of the best meals I have ever eaten, they babysit and constantly enjoy playing with my two youngest siblings who are mirror ages of my youngest children. They are more active in their 80s than I am in my 30s.
My grandfather has had his share of medical issues. I remember receiving a call from my mother several years ago informing me that my grandfather had some type of "cardiac emergency" and was at George Washington Hospital. I immediately got into my car and drove down to DC expecting to find my grandfather clinging to life after another heart attack. I began weeping when I went home to pick my wife up to drive to DC thinking that this will be when I lose my grandfather and I couldn't bear the thought of it. However, when we get into the ER room to see him, he is laughing at my serious concern for him and passes it off as just an "episode" and being blown out of proportion by my overbearing mother. No big deal he insists, just a little chest pain. The way he tells it, he began having a little chest discomfort whilst out on his daily bike ride around DC. The paramedics are called, and because he refuses to leave his expensive bicycle locked to a tree in some random location in the city, has them basically follow him back to his house on Capitol Hill before he will allow them to transport him to the hospital. As a medic, I could only laugh at the hilarity of an ambulance following their patient to his house to secure his bicycle during a "cardiac event" before he climbs into the medic unit and allows them to perform a 12-lead ECG, start an IV and begin following the ACS (acute coronary syndrome) protocol. My wife and I joked about him most likely banging his fist on the handlebar as he yelled "dammit Joan" all the way to the house.
After a few hours of visiting at the hospital and relaxing with the notion that my grandfather wasn't in immediate peril, we all went to my aunt Tamar's house to have a "heart attack party" where we were all finally able to relax and laugh about the incident even though he would remain in the hospital for several days and if I remember correctly this "episode" resulted in a bypass operation. In this family, unless your medical condition results in immediate death, we tend to have a few good laughs at your expense once the immediate fears subside.
My grandparents taught me the finer things in life. They always listened to classical music, thus giving me an appreciation for those amazing composers. My grandfather took me to the Kennedy Center almost monthly to see some amazing operas that I still love to this very day. I remember him taking me to my all time favorite, Into The Woods with the original Broadway cast to include Bernadette Peters who I always had a crush on since watching her in the movie The Jerk with Steve Martin. I remember many bike rides with my grandfather. I remember how my grandmother used to take me for rides on the Metro train around DC with no real destination set, just a day riding the rails because I loved the train so much. I remember how I used to call my grandfather "BeeBop" and the chime when the Metro doors are closing always sounded like BeeBop to me. I remember how when things got really bad for me at home, their door was always open to me. One time I had to leave home for good and my father accompanied me on the Metro to their house in southeast DC late in the evening so that I could live with them. No matter what was going on in my life, at a moments notice they were there for me. I remember my grandmother taking me with her to the YWCA where she did water aerobics and would show me off to all the ladies in her group. I remember my grandparents being very accepting of everyone I dated regardless of race, religion, or gender. They raised me to believe that everyone was equal and should be treated with dignity and respect.
I have heard my grandfather tell so many stories of his life, but I can honestly say that I have never really heard the story of their courtship and marriage. What I do know is that they married and had 3 wonderfully smart children, 1 of which brought me into the world so that I could be nurtured and cultured by these two absolutely amazing people. Even though we live almost 300 miles apart and I rarely get the chance to travel to see them, they are in my thoughts everyday and I miss them terribly. I can make a promise that no matter what I am doing, I will be there to join in the celebration next year when they hit their 60th anniversary. Knowing my grandfather, no matter what happens, he will not allow anything to come between them reaching that milestone. As I learned at a very young age, you just don't argue with The Colonel.
So, please, if you have ever met my grandparents, wish them a very happy 59th anniversary. Carl and Joan Abrams, you are not only my grandparents, you are my inspiration both in my life and in my marriage. You are the people that I have always aspired to be like. Throughout the years that I have been privileged to know you, you continue to inspire and amaze me just by being the wonderful people that you are and I could not imagine what my life would have been like without you in it. Thank you for getting the Abrams clan started 59 years ago, you did a wonderful job and keep up the great work! Congrats on this amazing achievement!!!