58 years. FIFTY. EIGHT. That’s a whole lot of years to spend loving someone. And yet, there they were. Smiling.
I joined Pat and Ward (actually, John, but I love that Pat called him by his last name. When they met, they knew so many ‘Johns,’ it was hard to get the right one to answer when you called) for a visit on the afternoon of their anniversary.
The table was set with linens, their best china, and their fine crystal. The lobster was chilling in the fridge; a cake was baked and displayed on a beautiful crystal plate. Cards rested at their place settings, ready to be opened during their meal together.
While I was there, they had three generations of visitors.
Little Harrison’s just-started-crawling-and-I’m-curious nature meant that he happily explored the apartment, and enjoyed some cuddles, while the adults visited together.
I sat and listened to their stories about their adventures together.
I marveled at the life they’ve led, while they went through photos that highlighted their history as a couple:
Many years ago, Ward took Pat on a drive in the country and stopped in front of what could only be described as a dilapidated barn. Ward asked her what she thought of it.
You can imagine her response.
He then surprised her by telling her that he’d bought it and wanted to turn it into their future family home.
It’s something of a wonder that he lived as long as he did after that kind of a surprise. Nonetheless, they worked to renovate it and turn it into a gorgeous, country home, so far removed from its origins that I didn’t initially realize it was the same structure.
Ward’s passion for sailing led to adventures on the seas with Ananda, the boat he bought in the Bahamas and sailed home on. Of course, Ward didn’t actually know how to sail when he bought the boat, but why should that be an obstacle?
They shared a love of dogs, and I’ve since heard stories about how their beloved German Shepherd was well-trained to protect Pat and the family home from interlopers – or their daughters’ hopeful suitors – while Ward worked on the road in his sales position.
There was so much to love about these two beautiful characters. Ward was playful and stuck his tongue out whenever he felt like it. Pat looked at him with a kind of adoration that you don’t often see. There’s laughter in Pat’s eyes.
Pat and Ward truly lived together.
They sought adventure – or maybe adventure found them – together. They raised a family, they had their struggles, and yet there they were, still: together.
I’ve wanted to document Grandparents for years. Pat and Ward were the perfect ones with which to start.
They love with more vigor, they laugh with more sincerity, they look at you and really see who you are. Not photographing my own grandparents is truly one of my biggest photographic regrets, even though I know I couldn’t have done it justice then in the way I would’ve wanted to. Spending this time with Pat and Ward meant more than they realized and I’m so thankful to them for letting me in.
Being gifted with the privilege of telling Pat and Ward’s story – or that of any other “experienced” couple – means the opportunity to hear about what the great loves of older generations have learned along the way:
What’s most important?
What are you going to remember when you’re old + grey? (or “greyer,” in my case)
What do you need to do to live your best life, so that you have tales to pass on to younger generations?
While much of my time is dedicated to documenting and celebrating the new parts of life – new marriages, new families, new babies – there’s something important about taking the time to properly celebrate couples who are anything, but new, to each other.
These are couples who know every wrinkle in the face, every nuance of tone in the voice, every detail of every daily routine.
These are people who have spent their lives getting to know each other year after year; accepting the changes and moving past the faults.
They’re the ones waking up each day, remembering to choose the other person time and again.
That, to me, is worth every single ounce of the same energy we spend celebrating newly married couples.
What we didn’t know while we were moving through our time together was that these would be the last professional photographs Pat and Ward would have done together.
It would be their last anniversary together; their final year of celebrating that day they said “I do” together.
Ward passed away after a courageous encounter with cancer just a few short months ago. In losing him, we were given a sharp reminder about the importance of loving with vigor, laughing with sincerity, and looking at people to see who they really are.
And about sticking your tongue out when the mood strikes.
Story and photographs contributed by Ang Waterton.
About Ang Waterton: I’m Ang Waterton: wife, photographer, cook, reader, sparkling wine drinker. I’m working on perfecting those skills in that order (although sometimes fizz comes first). My dad loves to tell the story about how, as a child, I’d come barreling down the stairs each morning in a clatter of sound and enthusiasm. I like to think I’m still approaching life that way, although I’m a little quieter in the mornings. My life in a few short lines: I love flipping kids upside down, going off the beaten track with my husband, cooking Asian food, my weekly brunch with my Nana, laughing until I cry at posts from damnyouautocorrect, drinking sparkling wine to celebrate the big things in life (like Tuesdays or a great email). I have no sense of smell, and my sense of direction isn’t much better. I think zucchini and avocados are evil. Moment.us Photography is my labor of love, through which I dedicate my time to documenting weddings and families in authentic ways so that my clients can see how they love and are loved by others. (Headshot photo credit: Citlalli Rico)