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Every year I look forward to late April. Not only is spring bursting forth, with the promise of summer on the horizon, but it also transports me to late April 1968 when Elli and I got married.

We didn’t follow tradition. For my relatives and New York area friends we had a party at my parents’ house on Sunday April 21st. Three days later we were married by a county court clerk in Rockville, Maryland followed by a second party the next weekend at Elli’s parents’ home for our D.C. area friends.

After the festivities, Elli and I and our cat drove back to our tiny apartment in Ann Arbor (yes, we were nuts to bring the cat). I had just completed my junior year at the University of Michigan, and in the fall Elli would start at the big U’s School of Art, where she’d been accepted as a transfer student. We topped off the spring celebrations with our late April/early May birthdays.

This year hasn’t been so festive. It’s rainy, cold, and dreary outside. Elli’s elderly father, who lives in an independent living community near us, developed an acute back problem three weeks ago. Until then, Jack had been remarkably independent given his almost 97 years and blindness, but severe back pain has made it very difficult for him to function. Elli has been with him daily, trying to organize a plan of treatment in the hope that he’ll regain his independence. I’ve been chief companion and gofer; as I run errands or wait for prescriptions to be filled, I’ve had a lot of time to let my mind wander.

Elli tells me that when her mind wanders she hangs out with the characters and story of the novel she’s currently working on. My mind, especially this year, keeps drifting back to April 1968 and our time in Ann Arbor.

I’m blown away by the passage of time. Forty-six years ago, at our wedding party, Elli’s father was fifty years old. He was only nine years older than our older daughter is today. Though we didn’t think so then, Elli and I were still closing out our childhood. I found it offensive that Maryland demanded that I get my parents’ notarized permission in order to get married (it was two-and-a-half weeks before my 21st birthday). In retrospect, we wouldn’t join the adult world until we moved to Springfield and had our first child several years later.

Beyond the passage of time, I think about how intensely committed we were to participating in political struggles. We’d already been active in the civil rights and anti-war movements, but they morphed into supporting black liberation and evolved from protest to disruption. Feminism, gay rights and environmentalism erupted and we entered the fray whole-heartedly. Those battles still echo, but their relationship to the passage of time has changed.

Back then, just a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War raged and we feared we had little time before the war escalated into a nuclear conflagration. And although we were becoming concerned about environmental damage, we weren’t yet worried about how quickly climate damage would escalate and threaten our world. Today, the time-frame of these over-arching issues has flipped. The time is achingly short to avoid an ecologically generated destruction of civilization.

I see the toll caring for her father is taking on Elli. It is so emotionally difficult to take care of a parent in extreme old age. My hope today is that, come 30 or 60 years from now, my children and theirs will, if necessary, have the opportunity to face similar difficulties, rather than having their world crumble around them.  Read More 
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