Sonny and Doris are very married.
The day I met them, they were celebrating 60 years of being very married. They are neighbors of my good friend Karl, in the Rose Lake Estates “Over-55” trailer park on the outskirts of Tampa.
We sat together in their comfortable double wide, surrounded by photos of their three children and six grand children. I asked them if it was love at first sight. They looked at each other, smiling, almost a conspiratorial smile for a question that, I’m sure, has been asked countless times.
“Well, you could say it was love without first sight,” Sonny said, emphasizing the word without. Another smile. I waited for the story they were anxious to tell.
Sonny and Doris were farm kids from Wisconsin. Sonny had 11 sisters, 10 older and one younger. “You could imagine why I didn’t care much for girls,” Sonny said. I could.
Doris was one of four kids. “My life wasn’t quite as interesting as Sonny’s,” she said. “But it was a good life.”
One of Sonny’s sisters was blind. Each summer, she attended a special camp for the blind outside Milwaukee. Doris had an uncle who was also blind and attended the same camp. The sister and the uncle became friends. Soon, they began talking about Doris and Sonny, at the time, 16 and 17 respectively.
“Doris’ uncle had never seen her,” Sonny said. “And my sister never saw me. So, they could only talk about the fact that we were really great kids and began to hatch a plan to get us together.”
They met at the end of that summer. Sonny drove to call on Doris at her family home in La Crosse. “I guess you could call this the ultimate blind date,” Sonny said. “I just knew Doris was a great gal, but had no idea if she was pretty or not.” Now the conspiratorial smile makes sense, as I’m sure they’ve told this story and used the blind date punch line hundreds of times.
It ended up being love at first sight for Doris and Sonny. “She was wearing a red sweater,” he said. “I can still see it. And her hair was long and blond. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.” It was the perfect set up for another “blind date” joke, but I let it pass.
Both of their families relocated to Milwaukee soon after that first meeting, giving them more of a chance to get to know each other. They married in 1955. I asked if they went on a honeymoon.
“Well, we didn’t have much money,” Doris said. “But Sonny’s sister gave us a $10 bill and told us to at least go to a hotel for the night.”
Sonny continued the story. “We stayed at the Edge of the Woods Motel. So, when people would ask where we went on our honeymoon, we’d tell them we went to the "edge of the woods." And, wouldn’t you know it, that building still stands today, but now it’s a nursing home.”
I asked if there was ever a time when they thought it wasn’t going to work, maybe thought that it would be better to split up, be with other people.
“Never,” said Doris. “We saw marriage as a commitment, something you did for life. We’ve always been good about sharing what’s on our mind. And we’re good at taking care of each other.”
Sonny added: “And we just like spending time together.”
Of course, it’s what you do when you’re very married.