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Never underestimate the power of 'the dot'

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| October 13, 2021 1:00 AM

It was a summer surprise.

My brother David and his family from around the country congregated for some camping at Priest Lake in late August. He rented a pontoon boat for an excursion to the Upper Lake. We lunched in the sand on a small sunny beach. But first Terry and I were to sit together at the picnic table set back in the trees. Unbeknownst to us, we were the “stars” of the show.

There was a clip-on bridal veil and a tuxedo tie — even a bouquet of yellow roses like we'd had for our October wedding nearly 50 years before. My nephew narrated a history of us. His two sisters and his mom serenaded us beneath the pines with a selection of songs — including “We've Only Just Begun” from our 1971 ceremony.

They'd memorized the words and practiced the music separately as none lived near the other. There was a champagne toast, and a blessing prayer as only my brother can offer.

My niece, whose anniversary was days away, said to us, “Just think, we've been married five years and you're almost fifty.”

I answered, “Let me tell you about that zero.”

How can zero hold so much?

There is a work by the French painter, Georges Seurat, titled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte — 1884.” The entire painting, ten feet wide, is tiny distinct brushstrokes of color that the eye then blends and sees as a whole image. Step too near and all you see is small dots.

That's about what a 50-year marriage looks like. Instead of dots, they might be called moments. One after the other — but together they make a lifetime. They are moments filled with grandeur and joy and tenderness, adventure and pleasure and laughter. Others hold pain and anger and sorrow and regret. Still others carry sacrifice and patience, loyalty and forgiveness.

Besides living long enough, the couples who spend 50 years together share something else. The ability to wait it out. To understand that long-haul love is more than individual moments. There is reward in holding on.

“A Sunday Afternoon …” took Seurat two years to complete. Dot by dot. It is considered his greatest artistic work.

So far the dots Terry and I began that sunlit October 16 day in the little A-frame community church on Priest Lake's Kalispell Bay have added up to 50 years. We were 19 and twenty marrying before God — Who has never left us — pledging our moments and forging our path to create a canvas that five decades later gives us and our family much joy and love.

Never underestimate the dot.