Sam Cook column: How I made a life-changing discovery in science
Fifty years of research can reveal a lot of insights about a relationship.
He fell for her in high school biology class. He was a sophomore. She was a freshman.
He was a town kid. She was a farm girl. It’s hard to pinpoint what sparked the fledgling romance. She probably laughed at one of his sophomoric wisecracks. It couldn’t have been his looks.
The relationship warmed over Bunsen burners that semester. One day in the spring, a couple seniors took the younger couple to a movie in the next town over. A good 15 miles down the two-lane highway. The younger couple sat fairly close in the back seat. He kissed her for the first time that night, on her doorstep.
The odds were against them staying together, of course. Surely, they would grow up, leave their little town, go their separate ways, find new loves. But they wound up at the same college. With 18,000 or 20,000 undergrads roaming the campus, it’s safe to say that other possibilities presented themselves. They shopped around a bit, but kept drifting back to each other.
Summer nights during those years, when he had to water greens at the small-town golf course, she would sometimes ride along. Hardly anything seemed more romantic than sitting close together, listening to the "tap, tap, tap" of an oscillating sprinkler and watching an arc of spray glisten in the moonlight.
One snowy January day, they were married in their hometown at the church of her childhood. They had wanted one of their college friends to play a guitar number in the celebration, but the farm girl’s father wasn’t quite ready for that. And he was paying for the wedding. The couple learned early the art of compromise.
They headed for the mountains of Colorado on their honeymoon. That first night, they narrowly averted a potential medical emergency. She had had an appendectomy a few weeks before the wedding. In the motel room that evening, she noticed what she thought was blood seeping from her navel. He was happy to examine. Turns out, it was just red sweater fuzz, wet from the shower. The honeymoon was on.
One day last week, the town kid and the farmer’s daughter quietly celebrated 50 years of marriage. Quietly, due to the pandemic.
If the virus were not rampant across the land, there would have been a dance or a bonfire or a trip to the Caribbean. Or at the very least a festive COVID vaccination gathering.
The anniversary couple’s grown kids, living in Scotland and Switzerland, could not be home to help celebrate the occasion. But from the shores of the North Sea and Lake Geneva, they orchestrated a touching Zoom celebration by the Minnesota couple’s friends.
Good kids. Just like their mama.
The town kid from biology class couldn’t have imagined more than a half-century ago the depth of the farm girl’s wisdom, her grit and toughness, her intuition as a parent, her appetite for adventure.
He suspects he will continue making such discoveries as long as they both shall live.
Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249 .