A story worth telling

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Four decades.  Forty years.  It is hard to believe that much time has passed since I said “I do” and married my best friend Mary Lou Ponder.   That is not a typo for those who don’t know this long running story.   I married my best friend and my 10th cousin, whose last name happened to be Ponder.

Our common ancestor, John Ponder, arrived in America in 1674, 102 years before the Declaration of Independence.  John had two sons named Daniel and Richard. For the next 280 years each generation had sons who then had sons.  1954 is the year that both Mary Lou and I were born.

The fact that we are aware of the long branches of our common family tree is pretty unusual.  The fact that we became best friends and fell in love 25 years before we discovered the final connection make the story even more amazing.

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To make the story even more interesting, we got married on the 50th anniversary of my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family.  We celebrated our marriages together for 16 years until the passing of my grandmother after their 66th wedding anniversary.  Our wedding occurred 304 years after our common Ponder immigrant landed in America.

Still, that is not the best story.  The best story has nothing to do with when we were married or the fact that we are less than 2% kin.  The best story is that two soul mates found each other and have shared their entire adult lives together.

What do you share with the person you love?  In our case, we shared the youthful memories of getting started and finding our own way.  We faced the challenges of making ends meet and the budding dreams of a brighter future.

Along the way, you hopefully get to share the ties that bind you together through anything and everything.  We had our first child, Catherine, and then our second, Elizabeth.  At the ripe old age of 26 we had everything we ever hoped for, our own family.

The thousands of pictures we have taken capture only snippets of our journey of raising a family, watching our daughters fall in love with fine young men, and then experiencing the joy of being grandparents.  That is an entirely different story all its own.

I built a company and Mary Lou taught three generations of kids.  We had good times and bad.  We learned that married life is never perfect.   Those who suggest otherwise haven’t been married for forty years.  But married life is worth it, if you love the one you are with.

The story moves along and we find ourselves back where we started, just the two of us.  We have started a new and separate journey, clicking off the items on our combined bucket list.

We find ourselves at Auburn again, where we truly fell in love, and at Compass Lake were we have shared 50 years of combined memories.   We now indulge our joint passion of traveling the world, having visited 23 countries, with even more trips planned.

Perhaps all the coincidences of our life together have a simple answer.   Perhaps we were simply meant to be together.  If not, then I am thankful that we found each other in the 7th grade at Girard Junior High School.   I am thankful for the decade of friendship we shared before we discovered something else, something unexpected, unexplainable and yet tremendously wonderful.  Love.

With all the twists and turns, and unlikely coincidences of our lives, the story is simple.  It is a love story that endures all these decades later. 

We are not perfect people, or even perfect partners.  Instead, we are a married couple that has found a way to enjoy each other and live together in a way that has given us joy in the past and gives us something to look forward to in the future.   

Forty years of marriage to your best friend who happens to be the love of your life.  That is a story worth telling.