Missing Bob on this nostalgic milestone

Susan Manzke

I was trying to figure out what to write about in my column this week. It’s not easy when all I’m thinking about is the fact that I’m passing another December 1 without Bob—we were married December 1, 1973, so it would be 49 years this week.

Bob and Susan's three oldest children Rebecca, from left, Russell, and Rob snuggle under a blanket back in 1980.

I have been keeping myself busy, so I don’t dwell on the empty chair at the table. Instead, I’m going to reach back into the archives to the first year of this column and share a bit of our life from back then.

We were young, with only three children. Russell wasn’t even a year old. Rebecca was almost three years old and Rob was five years old. My column was running in the now-defunct Farmer’s Friend (not this paper, which came almost two years later).

I had been writing this column for only eleven months and wasn’t sure what I was doing—I still don’t know what I’m doing, but like then, I keep charging ahead.

The subject of that December column was listing all the things that broke after seven years of marriage. One of the things was an iron. I guess I have one somewhere, but it doesn’t get much of a workout these days.

Anyway, here you go, my life from 42 years ago.          

When everything goes to pot, Dec. 4, 1980

The seventh year of marriage, which my husband and I are celebrating this week, has a stigma—the seven-year-itch—which will be carried through the ages.

We have been lucky to avoid this rash so far. But another plague that occurs this same year has not passed us by. I call it the seven-year-breakdown. At this time all the appliances received or purchased when first married conk out at the same moment.

Russell, Rebecca, Bob, and Susan early 1981.

I assumed things would keel over one at a time, to be replaced with less of a financial drain on the pocketbook.

It would have been easier if the iron cooled off at five years. But at five years it only gave up steaming. The heating unit kept on going. I couldn’t replace it until I squeezed out its last degree. Today, I think I have.

My baby hand-mixer served me well through the years. It hummed through hundreds of batters and mixes. It asked only for a slight adjustment rap on the counter now and then to give it a start. Now the raps come more often and harder. And the poor little thing no longer hums. Instead, it sounds more like a wheeze when it’s running.

Baby mixer’s big brother, Mr. Heavy-duty dough mixer, was a problem child from the start. I never had the right touch to make him run properly. But somehow this juvenile delinquent and I managed to eke out some fair bread dough batches.

The days are numbered for fresh bread in our house with the advent of the seven-year-breakdown syndrome. Mr. Heavy-duty is growing older. He’s getting impossible to handle. He has even begun to smoke.

Another breakdown has forced my fingers to re-learn to use a hand crank can opener. And it is lucky we don’t care too much for coffee, either. The pot was the first to go.

The seventh year of marriage can be analyzed for its problems, but the books overlook the real reason for marriage troubles at this time. The problems all come from those appliances. They are the ones impossible to live with.

Could any human, after watching such mass destruction, avoid looking at his or her spouse and wonder if they are ready to self-destruct?

And if, after all this, my husband still doesn’t know what to get me for our anniversary, well, I just might help him with his self-destruction.

Back to the present: I wonder how many marriages of seven years are having such breakdowns today. Maybe the appliances include a microwave and a pod coffee machine, but I bet things still break down.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;