"It's so nice to hear these things when we're alive," said Mom about the powerful thoughts that were said and shared, particularly by the grandchildren.
Many of us welled up as Kristina, the eldest grandchild, set the tone by getting up in front of the large group gathered for the celebration and delivering an eloquent, heartfelt and emotional speech.
I doubt if there was a dry eye in the house when Maggie presented her drawing of the backyard and the bus and what it, and they, meant to her.
Dylan made a last minute decision to sing a Frank Sinatra song as his gift. He knew that his brother Ben had drawn a picture of the Empire State Building, as Mom and Dad had honeymooned in NYC. He thought "New York, New York" would be a perfect choice.
I was proud of both boys and completely moved by all the grandchildren, even those who couldn't join us but sent along their messages of love.
There were several themes that resonated through the reflections of the young people about Mom and Dad. The role of the bus and the backyard was significant; it was a fun and adventurous place to be. There was also a sense of safety and comfort being around Memere and Grandpa and in the house that has hosted many a visit and celebration over almost 5 decades.
Hundreds of pictures were gathered and put into a slideshow that played throughout the afternoon. It was fun to watch the reactions as images from the near and distant past scrolled by, each kindling a warm memory.
We gathered everyone into a big circle and played a game of Know-Wonder (Thanks Tim Hurson). Each person drew a card from the deck. If they got an odd number, they were to share something they knew about Mom and Dad. If they got an even number, they were to share something they wondered about Mom and Dad, and their 50 years of marriage.
"Was Keith planned?" asked one person, getting right to the good stuff.
"Nope. He wasn't planned," answered Dad.
"Where did the bus come from?" asked one of the grandchildren about the iconic camper bus that has been parked in the backyard for the better part of 30 years.
"It came from Uncle Blair," said Mom. He had bought a new one back in the late 1970's and sold the old one to Dad. I could confidently say that dozens and dozens of us are glad he did.
We heard about Mom and Dad living in the basement of Frankie Rodger's house in Edmonton when they were first married. Frankie was a famous Canadian fiddle player.
Though the memory wasn't clear, their first date was at a bowling alley in Edmonton. "Your dad was working; your mom was flirting," said Tante Georgette laughing.
There is something inherently powerful about sitting in a circle and sharing. I've seen it a number of times in storytelling workshops that I've facilitated. But seeing the effect in a family context was profound. Things got emotional a number of times as barriers dropped and silent permission was given to share and release, both emotions and long-lingering questions.
The immediate family closed out the weekend by joining Mom and Dad at church on Sunday morning. The Thomas clan took up about six full rows. It was nice to be there and be present when Father Franklin made a special blessing over Mom and Dad.
"Fifty years," he said reverentially. "A lot of work. A lot of work."
How right he was. A good and long marriage requires a lot of things, chief among them, "perseverance," said Mom during the sharing circle the day before. It is a marriage that has had its share of ups and downs, like most do. But after 50 years, the rewards are clear: a family has been built, steeped in love, respect, tradition and consistent care. It was an honour and a blessing to observe it all during our short visit back home.
By Remembrance Day, the wind scattered most of us across the country. A big piece of our hearts will always reside at 586 Second Street in Kamsack, a place where a warm welcome always awaits, and a bright blue and silver bus stands sentinel in the backyard.
To view (or download) all the pictures from the 50th wedding anniversary celebration, please click here.