The golden year

Ed Smith
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We are already one week into November and I haven’t been sick once this month.

I rarely get sick. Except for that rather distressing day when I decided to break my neck, I live a relatively healthy life. But this past October I made up for the last 16 years in one month. September and October are my favourite months, too, so I didn’t appreciate it much.

On the other hand, there are those who are much sicker than I have ever been. Just a few days ago I lost a good friend of 50 years in Gambo, and others closer to home. Despite everything, OH and I just celebrated our golden wedding anniversary, thanks mainly to her care of us both. And the love of our family, and the love of our friends.

That’s enough about us. Just remember, the next time you want to complain about something, take a good look around you at others.

About our 50th anniversary. We have always celebrated birthdays and anniversaries quietly. Up until a few years ago we usually jumped in the car and went exploring some area of the Island we didn’t know or hadn’t seen in a long time, and spent a few nights on the road. After the accident, we dropped that little luxury.

OH has always been low-maintenance in terms of what’s required to make her happy. Which explains her ability to live with me for 50 years. I’m not always capable of delivering a whole lot in that regard. That’s not what I mean and you know it. Just the same, compared with some others I’m a regular Casanova — in that regard.

What I mean to say is that some people measure the worth of their personal celebrations in terms of where they went on their cruise, or how large the ship was, or where they flew — sounds good to us.

However, we are more likely to measure the success of our special time in terms of how many loads of wood we were able to salvage for our wood furnace, or how much kelp we scraped from the beach for our compost heap in the garden.

If, in years gone by, we indicated we might like to involve the family in some way on the day in question, kids and grandkids were suddenly scarcer than molars in a young pullet (I know what it is and I know how it’s pronounced, but I’m not sure how to spell it. I’m talking about “pullets,” those two or three of you who are stunner than Tom’s dog, and not molars.)

From long experience, they had learned that involvement in one of our “celebrations” meant work of the “dirty job” variety, such as collecting cow patties from some by-the-road cattle pasture. When the girls got old enough that this would sometimes involve their teenage friends, they rebelled. It was that or lose some of their friendships. Wasn’t nearly as satisfying — or as much fun — when OH and I had to do it ourselves.

In more recent years, that part of our family which lives next door is more likely to make us a meal. Son and Daughter #2 concocted a great supper for this occasion, and granddaughter #2 made us a cake. Grandson #2 helped me start a fine batch of wine from scratch. Scratch included damsons, crabapples, apples from our large appletree and various chemicals.

Grandson was more than willing to help me get it underway, but politely declined when I offered to name the resulting wine after him — “Sweet Nicholas” or “Nicholas Dry.” Said he would rather wait to see how it tasted. Wise beyond his years.

The dinner was the kind of old-fashioned meal you would find in any Newfoundland outport. The whole thing was based around something called a raclette. This consisted of two electric grill-like affairs with two levels each which sat on the table and on which each diner could cook their own dinner according to their own taste at their own speed while drinking a beverage of their own choice.

Many bowls contained a variety of prepared meats and sauces. They included: chicken soaked in a lemon and pepper marinade; beef marinated in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; and pork marinated in maple syrup, Dijon mustard and a hint of sesame oil.

There was an assortment of dipping sauces, including Asian Ginger, Russian sweet mustard, chipotle, a tzatziki dip and a mango chutney. All of that, according to son, comes straight off the grocery store shelves, mixed with a whole lot of creativity.

This stuff may be old hat to you who are familiar with high-international cuisine, but to someone like me who’s used to roast moose and gravy, this was a meal straight out of that CNN fellow, Anthony what’s-his-face, who wanders the world sampling cultures and related foods.

The authors of this meal went through a great deal of trouble to prepare it and I have to say it was extremely tasty. At least the seven or eight dishes I consumed were surpassingly delicious.

None of this, of course, got in the way of our heading out over the road and collecting more than our quota of good old-fashioned horse poop to top off our compost barrels and bins for next spring. OH proclaimed herself exceedingly pleased with the whole day. As I said, low maintenance in the best possible sense of the term.

I don’t know how she managed to get us both to that exalted 50-year level. I think an iron will and a commitment to yours truly beyond the imaginable helped.

Her own problems never once got in the way of her determination to keep me as safe and healthy as possible. Fifty years is a lifetime; 16 years can be several lifetimes.

I think there must be a special place in heaven for spouses and partners who commit unconditionally to “in sickness and in health.”

If there is, she’ll be there.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is

Geographic location: Gambo, Iceland, Newfoundland Springdale

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