Column: 43 years and counting for news couple

Due to circumstances well within our control, this (today!) may be the first of our 43 wedding anniversaries that the former Joan Giger Walker and I have not been together. Fear not; we will be reunited tomorrow (Friday!) night — and I promise to take her out to dinner to make up for my absence today.

Ironically, this unforced separation from the love of my life has me thinking about our marriage and our lives together more than if I were “in the house,” as they say. Perhaps separation does, indeed, make the heart grow fonder. Whatever the reasons, you will forgive me, I hope, for sharing the following summary of our lives together.

I saw her for the first time walking down Summit Avenue in Hackensack, N.J., in 1949. We were 3. She lived on the ritzy side of the railroad tracks, at 261 Summit, and I lived with the common folk, over at 11 Coolidge Place. For the purposes of this column, I’d like to be able to say it was love at first sight, but who remembers clearly what their heart said 63 years ago?

Sixty-one years ago — now that’s something I can remember! We ended up in the same kindergarten class at Fanny Meyer Hillers Elementary School, and I’m pretty certain I was head over heels in love with Joan shortly thereafter. Or was it her twin sister, Jean? No, it must have been Joan because before we moved up to junior high school together we were “married” in a civil ceremony on Hackensack’s Main Street. (Well, it may not have been strictly legal, but there was a “wedding certificate” we got from the five and dime that we both signed.)

Like most romances, ours had its ups and downs. By the time we were 12, we had “separated,” and we dated other people throughout most of our high school years. But we got together again just before we graduated and have remained together ever since. (Fast-forward: two daughters, four — soon to be five! — grandchildren and 35 years as equal partners in the community newspaper business.)

The official wedding date was July 12, 1969, but I suppose it could be argued that we really have “been together” for 63 years — since the day I saw that little girl with curly blond hair walking down Summit Avenue.

Under normal circumstances, this column would have been edited and vetted in advance by Joan, but this week I want to surprise her.

And hopefully she will forgive me for concluding with this:

I have always loved you, Joan Giger Walker, and I always will.

An extremely loyal reader of this column, Jason Gary, had inquired via e-mail about the status of the little off-the-grid cabin we are building on property our daughter and her husband own near Lake Placid, N.Y. I wrote about it back in June, which caused him to write in turn: “I keep looking for an update but nothing yet … Yes, there are actually people who read and go back and wait for the update!”

So, Mr. Gary, the update: The metal roof is on, the windows and doors are in and the siding is going on as this is written. (Literally as this is written, which reveals the truth that others, who know what they’re doing, are actually “building” the cabin.) We’re told the composting toilet and the propane lights and stove will be installed within the fortnight. And if Times/Review’s information technology gurus can help me make the arrangements, I promise a little online slide show on the project when all is said and done.

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