On April 18, 2016, I sent the following email to four old friends:
Dear, dear friends:
I am hosting a little dinner party at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham on the evening of April 28, 2016, and I would very much like you to be my guest.
The occasion is the 65th anniversary of the day Pauline Mary Weinberger consented to be my bride. She is the very best person in the whole world, and I am incredibly fortunate that she has spent a lifetime trying to make something of me.
Dinner will be at 6:30 PM. No gifts will be accepted, except the incalculable blessing of your friendship and willingness to share the occasion.
We started the day as we had started our wedding day 65 years before, by attending Mass. Then, breakfast at the little bakery around the corner before I delivered Polly to the hair stylist and went off to get the car washed.
In about forty minutes, she emerged from the hairdresser’s sporting a perky hairdo and a mischievous smile that told me she was happy with the result.
If you have never been romantically interested in an 86 year old woman, you may not appreciate the heady anticipation with which I drove the 330 miles to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
Suffice it to say that my little dinner party was a roaring success, filled with laughs, and stories of bygone days; the vividly remembered events that called up unforgettable people we all knew and loved, back in the day.
On Friday, after a comfortable night at the Townsend, we drove to the refurbished Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit to meet Tom, Jr., his wife, Julie and our grandson Patrick.
They were at the Book Cadillac to attend a wedding. But there was more. Tom and Julie were celebrating their 39th anniversary, and Patrick, the lawyer-turned-seminarian has finished his first year of Theology and will be doing some missionary work in Belize this summer.
And so Tom and Julie hosted another celebratory dinner, this time at Roast, the 4.4 star upscale steakhouse in the hotel. They know how to help you celebrate. Of course, the gregarious Tom Brennan, Jr. made sure that every bellman, waitress and bartender knew that his Mother and Dad were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, and that we had our first date on April 2, 1948 at a college dance right there in the ballroom of the Book Cadillac Hotel.
Earlier that day, while driving down Woodward Avenue from Birmingham, I had an itch to detour by some of the houses we shared in our 65 years. 19347 Berkeley Road; 17334 Cherrylawn; 12310 Cloverlawn, 10311 Morley; 14921 Ward.
We cruised by the Berkeley house and Polly’s childhood home on Warrington Drive; we saw Gesu, the church where we were married, and our Alma Mater, the University of Detroit across the street.
But not the other places. A few minutes of sightseeing along Six Mile Road and Wyoming were more than enough to discourage further exploration. The city that lives in our memories is gone; like Father Norbert Clemens, of sainted memory, who married us in 1951, and presided at our silver and golden anniversaries in 1976 and 2001.
The gift of time is a mixed blessing. It fills a life with sights and sounds, with places and people, with events and emotions. My darling wife embraces all of it in her inexhaustible memory. She can tell you what she wore on our first date, who we saw at the dance, where we went afterwards. All I remember is that I kissed her goodnight. But, hey, that really mattered.