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While most of you were hoping that the temps around here would at least stay above freezing, my wife and I wrapped up 49 years of wedded bliss. For the math challenged trying to decipher this that means we were married back in October of 1970.

The weather that day started out at 40 and reached a high of 53 degrees with a 20 mph northwest wind. I was a 20-year-old college student, Renee was 18 and neither of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Like most grooms I was a nervous wreck and was told that my "I do’s" were quite loud. This may have something to do with my best man saying he didn’t give our marriage a year before it would be over.

In addition to being a college student, I had a full-time job as a psychiatric technician at the state hospital in Jamestown. Renee was living at home and I was living in a dorm room. Since the college had no married housing, we had to find an apartment.

We found one for $75 a month; it was a spartan upstairs place with one bedroom, a bath and small kitchen. One of our wedding gifts was a folding card table with chairs and that became our kitchen table. The rest of our furniture was early attic that we were able to abscond from our parents.

Adjusting to married life wasn’t easy for either of us: I had a raft of college friends and Renee didn’t know a soul in Jamestown, so we both had to do a lot of adjusting. Renee was also pregnant with Sean whose life only lasted around 27 hours before he went back to heaven. It was here that we struggled with staying together and separated for a while.

Renee left and returned and we’ve been together ever since. Once I finished college, we bought a 1961 Volkswagen van and it became our new home for a bit over a year as we traveled the country and ended up in the mountains of Colorado.

We settled in there until our next child came along and we decided that we’d like to raise our kids back home with our families. So we moved back home, had another kid and in 1980 we moved to Missoula, Mont., so I could attend graduate school. Somewhere while I was majoring in white water rafting and tennis, our third child came along and we moved back home again and except for another hiatus in Fergus Falls, Minn., we’ve been here ever since.

No matter how you look at it, 49 years is a long time, but I’m here to report that we’ve been very lucky to have each other. It’s interesting to note that all of those years have made Renee and I one. Whenever our hearts are touched by another they are with us wherever we go and in our case we have become one another.

As both my loyal readers know, I believe that life goes on after here, like you I haven’t been there yet, but when I do get there Renee will be with me because she has become a huge part of who I am.

So with all that I want to thank her for allowing me to be her husband all these years and I look forward to spending whatever time we have left with her. Love is a wondrous thing filled with all sorts of challenges and the trick to making it last involves leaving room for each other to be whomever they are. Thanks Renee for loving me. 

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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