Susan's Blog

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It Takes a Family

We were married on a rainy day
The sky was yellow and the grass was gray.
–Paul Simon

There is a legend out there that says that the divorce rate in marriages dealing with autism is higher than the national number of 1 in 2. I believe it is still unproven.
Is there any data out there on the Herculean strength and enduring love in autism marriages and in the typical autism family?

When I was a girl, my dad said that he was willing to foot the bill for “college and a wedding,” and after that, we were on our own. In fact, I had to contribute a healthy chunk of my college tuition by working as a waitress every summer and with student loans to the max, but the fact is, Mom and Dad did manage to pay for the bulk of it — on teachers’ salaries.

This was 1984, before brides spent $75,000 on average for their weddings. Sure, my dress was a satin beauty from Bergdorf’s in Manhattan, but it was the one my mom had worn, in 1958. To fit into its retro silhouette, I had to buy a corset, but Victoria’s Secret, a fairly new store at the time, only sold one kind. It wasn’t even white! We had to tailor the dress in numerous ways, and I even had to use a button-covering tool to replace buttons that had fallen off.

Even though at 21 I was almost the youngest of all of the cousins in my extended family, mine was the first wedding of our families for this generation. There had only been bar and bat mitzvahs and funerals up until then, for years and years. No one knew from weddings. My mother sought the advice of my grandmother (whom we called Mama). Mom did not seek much advice from the bride herself. Dream wedding? Wake up!

The more serious aspects of the wedding were completely out of my hands. It was to be a Jewish wedding, which I knew nothing about, other than what I’d seen in Fiddler on the Roof – complete with chuppa, plain gold wedding bands, face-covering veil, and stepping on a wineglass. I remember all the discussions we had about food, flowers, and guests. I had wanted everything to be red: red flowers, red bridesmaids dresses, but they had felt that was too “hot” for July. We settled on pale pink. I had wanted little pizza hors d’oeuvres, but they felt that was tacky. The only thing that I really really pushed for was to have the top of the wedding cake be chocolate and coconut, because that is what Ned and I loved, and the plan was to save the top in the freezer, and eat it on our first year anniversary.

Two days before my wedding my grandfather died. This was sudden and devastating. I thought we would postpone the wedding, but in Jewish tradition, you never put off a blessing for anything, and so we proceeded with it. I don’t know how Dad managed that day, grieving for his father while giving away his daughter, but he did it all somehow, with every bit of his usual flair, and only my practiced eye could detect the deepened crease running down his forehead. When he and my uncles hoisted me up in a chair and danced around with me, I was afraid I’d fall; but I didn’t. Before I knew it, Mom, Dad, and Mama were kissing me goodbye, and then I was on my honeymoon in Italy with Ned Batchelder, my new husband.

For years after my wedding I still dreamed about magazine-style weddings, where everything is perfect, and what I should have done instead, like have the red flowers and little pizzas and a modern wedding gown and a wedding by the sea, not in a synagogue. But now I hear so much about the weddings of today, the bridezillas and the couples who spend it all to have it all. Yet there is still a 1 in 2 divorce rate. Recently it dawned on me that Mom, Dad, and Mama were probably trying to keep that from happening to me. In doing what they did, they taught me about compromise, negotiation, and listening to your elders. I learned about tradition and family. Perhaps this was where I got the strong foundation that helped me embrace whatever else life gave me. Learn more about the author here.

We never did manage to choke down that bit of freezer-burned wedding cake, though we tried, while sitting in bed in a Cape Cod motel on our first anniversary. But today, July 1st, we have made it to our 25th wedding anniversary. We have made it through the panoply of life’s possible and challenging events: deaths, births, autism, adolescence, career changes, mid-life crises.

I think we could only have gotten here because we were carried there on the shoulders of giants.


Congratulations. I salute you, and your wonderful family on this milestone of a day.

— added by Someone Said on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 8:34 am

And this is what it's all about…

— added by Judith U. on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 9:02 am

Congratulations Susan and Ned! I wish you many more happy years together!!

— added by S on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 9:36 am


— added by John Elder Robison on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 9:43 am

Congratulations. Your photos are beautiful.

— added by Sharon on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 9:46 am

Congratulations! What a lovely bride. You're right, of course, everything you said is spot on.

— added by mumkeepingsane on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:19 am

Hey Sue:

I have have not followed your blog in a while and happened to go through a bunch of bookmarked sites this morning and saw your wonderful posting.

Congratulations to you and Ned!



— added by John McEleney on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

These pictures are amazingly beautiful and touching! Congratulations on your 25th!

— added by BrassyBeads on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:43 am

Oh, Susan! This has to be one of the most beautiful anniversary posts I've ever read. Truly; you moved me to tears.

Mazel Tov and happy, happy, happy anniversary to you and Ned!

— added by Niksmom on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:48 am

So awesome!! I hope Mike and I make it 20 more years!!

— added by cameramom on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 11:15 am

Happy 25th anniversary Susan! Make the love you feel for each other continue to grow.

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 11:37 am

Thanks for your heartfelt words. You continue to be an inspiration to me in so many ways. We celebrated our 18th on Monday. Not a milestone like you and Ned, but an accomplishment all the same. We are in this together, through thick and thin. Thanks for reminding me of that!

— added by Kaija on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Cheers to you, Susan and Ned! Well done so far- here's to the next 25!

— added by gretchen on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

susan! so beautiful … i'm crying (oy!) …

congratulations to you and ned!

you are both so extraordinary, you're an inspiration. thanks for letting us know it can be done.

— added by jack and james on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Happy Anniversary Susan and Ned! Congratulations and here's to 25 more :0)

— added by Penny on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Hearty congratulations from New Orleans!! Wishing you and your dashing husband every happiness! Mazel tov! Lisa

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:12 pm

wow how gorgeous…you know you both still are gorgeous…congratulations on your special day…if I can hold out till Nov we will celebrate ours then;)

— added by eileen on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Congratulations on your silver anniversary Susan and Ned…may you have many more happy years together.

— added by Judi on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Congratulations Susan and Ned! here's to 25 more years!

— added by Penny on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 4:54 pm

So beautiful, the two of you!

— added by Donna on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Happy Anniversary, Susan and Ned. thank you for sharing with us.

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 9:01 pm


Happy Anniversary!

— added by Christine on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Susan, what a beautiful post! Happiest of celebrations.
-Em's Mom

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Happy Belated Anniversary!! I think a lot of modern Bridezillas are merely in it for the big party. They are totally focused on the wedding, not the MARRIAGE that follows. Hence the divorce rate. Just my opinion. Anyway, congratulations! You made a beautiful bride. 🙂

— added by ASDmomNC on Monday, July 6, 2009 at 10:47 pm

What beautiful pictures! Happy anniversary!

Wow, you have always been a beautiful women, then and now. Stunning.

The best weddings are NOT of the bridezilla kind. It's just that few people learn that in advance of planning their wedding – there's way too much commercial pressure these days on brides. Luckily I got jilted for my 1st wedding, so for my REAL wedding, I did it our way. (and relatively cheap, though it's never cheap to feast a lot of people and to me, the most important thing was to show our friends a good time and have them celebrate with us.)

— added by Shannon D. on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Thank you, everyone. My blog has broadened my family considerably!

— added by Susan Senator on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 7:14 am