This October, my parents, John & Donna (O’Connell) Dzenawagis, celebrate 40 years of marriage. Since I’ve become the unofficial family historian, I thought it would be a good opportunity to document the story of how they met, their wedding, and get their thoughts on the highs (and lows) of the 40+ years they’ve spent together. A reminder to everyone, it is absolutely invaluable to have these stories recorded. And it was also just fun to interview my parents and ask questions I normally might not have. Happy Anniversary Mum & Dad. 💕
Danne: I've always loved the story of how you guys met, will you tell it to me again?
Dad: I believe we met at Maple Alleys which was a bowling alley in Brockton.
Mum: Yes, it was Maple Alleys. People used to drink beers and party in the woods out back and there was a big rock out there. One night a bunch of us were there and I was standing up on the rock. I looked down and saw Dad at the bottom, I had never seen him before—I had heard about him though, all the girls at school were talking about him. I looked down at him and said "Catch me" and jumped...and he caught me. I don't know what I was thinking!
Dad: (laughing) That's probably when my back problems started.
Mum: (laughing) Probably! Anyways, after that, he'd come down to Maple Alleys looking for me and we started talking more and more. Then Dad's cousin Steve asked him to find someone to go on a double date with him and that ended up being our first date.
Danne: And then you got married 8 years later on October 7, 1978—40 years ago this year. Where was the ceremony? The reception? How many guests did you have?
Mum: Eight and a half years! Dad took his time. We got engaged on Easter Sunday at Grammy's house. Our wedding was the following fall at St. Colman's Church and we had the reception at the Walk-Over Club in Brockton...it's not there anymore, they made it into condos. It was a cool old place that looked like a castle, that's why I liked it.
Dad: I think we had around 120-125 guests? The wedding party was about 20 counting the little kids.
Danne: What was your favorite memory from your wedding day?
Mum: I loved taking the photos because it was fall and the foliage was gorgeous that year, it was a really nice day. Fall is my favorite season so that's why we decided to get married then.
Dad: Dancing with Mum to "Color My World" by Chicago and our wedding song, "I Only Have Eyes for You".
Danne: Does 40 years feel like a long time or did it go by in the blink of an eye?
Mum: Yes. It feels like a long time. It didn't fly by...I can look back and think of all the things that have happened over those 40 years, I remember what it was like when we first got married, before we had kids, etc. A lot has happened since then.
Dad: Sometimes it feels long, but we still get along, we still make each other laugh. She's an incredible human being, I'm blessed.
Danne: What would you say the happiest time in your marriage was?
Mum: The first 20 years, the beginning. The empty nest has been a little tough, it's good in some ways too, you don't have to take care of anyone. You can just focus on yourself which you haven't done for so long. But you're healthier in the beginning. Once health issues enter in it's really hard. "In sickness and in health", people just say it, but you don't realize what those words actually mean until you get older.
Dad: I think the beginning. And then when you and your brother were born. You kids are incredible, it's been a great ride.
Mum: Yes, Dad and I look at each other sometimes and can't believe how lucky we were with you kids. You're such great children. You always helped out, we never had to raise our voices. You always remembered everything, anniversaries, birthdays. We never got a phone call from the police or had to hire a lawyer!
*Sidenote: I absolutely did not put either of them up to saying that 😉
Danne: You've been married 40 years now, but together for almost 50. What do you think the secret to a long-lasting relationship is?
Mum: You can't be selfish, you have to be a giver, you have to share. You have to really like each other and be good friends too. With my personality, it's helpful that Dad is so easy going. 😉
Dad: It's a two-way street. You have to share with your partner, make the best of it, take one day at a time. Just be yourself, that's what I try to do.
Danne: What do you love most about each other?
Mum: Probably his personality. His optimism, he's pure. You don't find many pure people in the world anymore. Dad's the kindest and nicest person I've ever met.
Dad: Ditto. And I love that Mum makes me laugh all the time, it's great medicine.