On July 4, 1943, World War II was raging in Europe. In the United States, the entire country celebrated a subdued Independence Day.
But in Brooklyn on July 4, 1943, Sheila Gluck, wearing a $17 off-white dress suit, was about to walk down the aisle of the East Midwood Jewish Center.
“I had a short dress because it was wartime and that’s what I could get,” Sheila remembers. “I saw this dress in a window in a store on King’s Highway, and I said that’s what I wanted. I bought shoes that cost $3, because that’s what most things cost those days.”
Seventy years have gone by since my grandparents tied the knot in the presence of their friends. It was 70 friends, says my grandmother; more like 30, insists my grandfather.
“Time flies,” is all my grandfather, Bill Lidman, says when asked about celebrating their 70th anniversary.
And the secret to 70 years of marriage?
“You have to share,” he says simply, because that’s how my grandfather talks: simply and to the point.
My grandmother is a little more expressive. “You have to work through disagreements,” she explains. “In life, there’s always different opinions and different ways of looking at things and you can’t just have one side; there’s two sides to everything.”
Seventy years of marriage is a hard concept to grasp in an era when just under half of marriages end in divorce and electronic correspondence makes relationships feel both closer and more disposable. My grandparents married after four years of dating, but since he lived in Rochester, she in Brooklyn, they had only spent about eight weeks together before their wedding. They wrote letters, though the letters themselves didn’t survive as many years as the marriage.
My grandfather was drafted into the Army Air Corps Enlisted Reserve during World War II but was immediately released so he could continue working at his job at the time — testing aircraft engines — because it was deemed essential for the war effort.
They moved to Cleveland after the wedding and then to Long Island. They raised three children: Bonnie, Edward, and Debbie. When the youngest, Debbie, was just out of high school, my grandfather’s job brought him to Reading, Pa., a move that both agreed was one of the biggest challenges of their marriage: to start over in a new place when they were both past middle age. But my grandmother quickly joined the sisterhood of the Kesher Zion Conservative Synagogue, and my grandfather moved up through the board to eventually serve as president.
“It was a way of life, a way of meeting people and participating in the community activities, and we wanted to be included in the community,” Bill remembers.
“When you don’t know a soul in town, you have to find a way of meeting people and that was our way of meeting people and getting involved,” adds Sheila.
Over a decade ago, they left Reading and moved to Monroe Township to be closer to their daughter Bonnie and son-in-law Bill. They’re also closer now to the unshakeable Lidman family tradition of Thanksgiving at Bonnie and Bill’s house.
So much has changed in the past 70 years since that day in the East Midwood Jewish Center. Four generations now gather around the Thanksgiving table in New Jersey: three children, six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, plus spouses and friends.
“Let’s just put it like this,” my grandmother says, when I can tell my grandfather is done being sentimental about seven decades of marriage and has already started tidying up the kitchen from lunch. “As you grow older, things change. You just have to go with the flow, as they say, because otherwise you’re in trouble.”