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It's been a great 64 years of marriage Richard Pena | Mon, Apr 12 2010 05:09 PM

This Sunday, April 11, my wife Zula and I will be observing our 64th wedding anniversary, a milestone that is not too often reached.
Due to the passage of time, the details of that particular day are rather fuzzy. But I do know that the wedding ceremony took place at St. Mary's Basilica in Norfolk, Va.
By contrast ,I recall the events of the day before quite vividly, at least, a part of the day. My bride-to-be was in the hands of two friends, recently married themselves, who took her in tow and did all those preparations-you know, clothing, hairdo, and so forth, in anticipation for her big day. I was told to get lost, or whatever expression they were using in those days to convey leaving the girls to do their girl thing.
I had never been to Norfolk and since I had leave from the ship I decided to do a little exploring.
I recall walking the length of the street bordering the Norfolk waterway. There were numerous shops and restaurants- actually saloons-in that Navy town and, for the most part, they were inviting.
Here I was, 27 years old, with every one of those days spent as a single guy. My days, nay, my hours, of bachelorhood were numbered. The free and easy life that I had enjoyed as an unencumbered male was soon to end. Would there be any regrets and if so to what degree?
I have often thought of that particular day. In later years I used to couple it with the song some forlorn singers used to sing, you know, the one that goes, "So set them up, Joe, There is something I think, that you ought to know."
But one does not set them up at 10 a.m. on a bright Spring day. So I did not tell "Joe," or anyone else, for that matter, about my plight. I did go into one of the saloons at lunch time and for the first time ever have a meal of fresh clams, right out of the shell, and into a sauce. In retrospect, my plight must have not been too serious as I have loved clams ever since.
The wedding did go on and some of our shipmates did give us a reception of sorts at a local hotel. This was shortly after the war and party-type material was still in scarce supply.
 I do recall that, through a series of errors, we had three wedding cakes, enough to give an individual enough sugar to last a while. So my new bride and I toasted each other, not with champagne, but with wedding cake. All's fair in love and war and this was both.
I almost immediately learned the resourcefulness of my new bride.
Just a few days after the wedding the ship was due to leave Norfolk bound for its permanent home port of San Diego.
Zula sort of anticipated this and on the day that we departed so did she, by rail to California. She had made the reservations, mapped the route and purchased the ticket. This was her characteristic throughout our entire life. When it was something relating to the family she was the take-charge person, the one who would see that everything, down to the last detail, was done in a correct and precise manner.
Most of us remember our lives by segments, some, of course, not too good, but most of them bringing back cherished memories. Our first home was a small apartment in Mission Hills.
I would have to rate our Mission Hills life as one of the most pleasant episodes in our lives.
I suppose that it was because we were just learning about the mysteries of married life. It was a sort of an on-the-job training.
This was a time when we became acutely aware of the needs and wants of each other, a basis, a platform of what was going to guide us through the years. And so it has for all this time.
I recall the period when our last child left home, leaving us with the proverbial empty nest.
We both thought that we had been successful in what we had done in our lifetime and it was time for relaxing.
We traveled to our heart's content and did many of those fun things that folks do. And this continued until, about 10 years ago, she was struck with dementia, that awful sickness that no one understands.
I sit with her daily in our living room and talk with her, mostly about some of the myriad of things what we have shared or some of the things that I wish to do. She, of course, does not answer but I am occasionally rewarded with a fleeting smile.
A colleague of mine, the late Don Irwin used to have a saying, "I've been married ten happy years, but oh, those other twenty-five."
To paraphrase Irwin I would have to say, I have been married sixty-four happy years.

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