The Algebra of Life

Only an infrequent blogger such as I would have ears so tinny as to pose a mathematical riddle on a Sunday. Today’s algebraic challenge?

When does 62 = 24? Show your work.

The answer is June 7. Today is a mixed bag in our house. In the algebra of life, each June 7 marks another year of marriage for my parents while also marking another year that PW’s dad has been dead. Today is my parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary. PW’s dad died 24 years ago today.

Isn’t that so like life? One person can be experiencing a transcendent moment of awe while the person right next to her can be staggering through the endless, rocky, unpredictable terrain of grief. Even stranger is when the same person is living in both landscapes.

I never met PW’s dad, but I’ve heard enough stories to wish I had met him. And not a week goes by that I don’t ask him, in case he’s hanging around within earshot, “Did you see that? Did you hear that? She’s stunning, isn’t she?”

160 PARTY BARB 01_0003.1

My parents on their wedding day in 1953.

As for my parents, well, in their 62 years of marriage, I’m pretty sure they’ve reinvented the institution of marriage at least a handful of times. Probably more. I’ve never understood why people are afraid of marriage being reinvented. It seems to me that every couple who enters into this covenant will reinvent it, shape it in their own way, learning how to love each other as they come, to paraphrase Kristin Diable’s “True Devotion.”


My parents on PW’s and my wedding day in 2004.

I don’t know the particulars that have gone into my parents’ reinvention. I know some of the components that loom large: admiration, humor, and forgiveness.

When PW and I were watching the Belmont Stakes yesterday, we were both struck by how newly minted Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah finished the race–after a mile and a half, it seemed like he was still accelerating. That’s what my parents’ 62-year marriage looks like to me today,  as though their union has more forward momentum than ever before. I also happen to know that their church congregation gave them a standing ovation today, so there’s something else they have in common with the thunderous thoroughbred.

For some reason, this poem comes to mind on this bittersweet anniversary. It’s from Mary Oliver’s 2014 collection of poems entitle, Blue Horses, which PW gave me last Christmas:

RUMI (for Coleman Barks)
When Rumi went into the tavern
I followed.
I heard a lot of crazy talk
and a lot of wise talk.

But the roses wouldn’t grow in my hair.

When Rumi left the tavern
I followed.
I don’t mean just to peek at
such a famous fellow.
Indeed he was rather ridiculous with his
long beard and his dusty feet.
But I heard less of the crazy talk and
a lot more of the wise talk and I was
hopeful enough to keep listening

until the day I found myself
transformed into an entire garden
of roses.

Which brings us to another math problem:

When does 62 + 24 = infinity? Live your work.


7 responses to “The Algebra of Life

  1. Now everyone who reads this blog will understand why we named you Joy. You are, beloved, Joy personified. Thank you for this.
    Hey Joy, your mom just said that. I’m piggy-backing on to her message: Now I know, as if I didn’t already know it down in my bones, why you bring so much JOY to life in general, but especially on this day, to the lives of your family, including spouse, children, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and especially, your entire parental conglomerate.
    (dad xoxox)

  2. Beautiful, Sis.

  3. Marcia Bird-Werntz

    As usual Joy, your blog has stirred me to tears….both of joy and sadness. And still, I love that you can do that! You are wise beyond your years.
    much love, Marcia

  4. Tricia Bayless Browne

    I always find beauty and wisdom in your words. Thank you for sharing the gifts you have in such meaningful ways. I love it when writing stirs my intellect as well as my heart.

  5. We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary on Friday. I asked Brad if we would still have the momentum of your parents when we get to 62 years. He commented that at least we are more than half way there. I love your writing and the Joy you bring through sharing it.

  6. Fantastic and wonderful. :) xxoo

  7. I’ve missed your blog, Joy. So good to have you back!

    Having just spent a week at the Howard House of Hospitality, I was privileged to see that true devotion of which you write; see it be even more wonderful and amazing than a triple crown. There ought to be a trophy for 62 years of life together–ever transforming!

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