In a time of high decibel reality TV, where every relationship seems pre-packaged with screaming matches, subterfuge, and ultimate doom, author Julian R. Hanley’s simple, loving tribute to his wife feels a lot like respite. Sentimental to be sure, in A Dress, a Tie, and a Ring he looks back over a 64-year love affair that began the first moment he spotted a pretty woman across a crowded room at a dance.
Marriage, children, World War II, building a law career, and even a house renovation (decades before such a thing became trendy) followed. Yet there is nothing syrupy about the casual reminiscences of an unfolding love that that not only survived but flourished through the decades. The simplicity and straightforward retelling makes his words feel natural and true. ”In all our married life she never asked for a thing. Material possessions were fine, but she needed nothing. She had everything. Her life was full and therefore, so was ours.”
Hanley’s light touch is well suited for his look back on love. This so easily could have devolved into an Ozzie-and-Harriet-style, glossed-over memoir with a scolding undertone that the good old days were superior to now. Hanley avoids that trap. “Of course you should never go back and you should never want to,” he writes, “Still a backward glance now and then, nostalgia if you will, is only that, a glance – a remembrance of dear days long ago.” The fact that Hanley is now 100 years old makes this book all the more remarkable.
Hanley includes revelations that his wife, Betty, struggled throughout her life with the emotional scars of being an abused child. But he doesn’t dwell on this, instead simply stating it as a fact of their life together, wedged among the milestones and silly rituals that become the glue to family life. One of the most touching memories is the appearance each year on their anniversary of the negligee worn on their wedding night. When Betty becomes too sick to retrieve the threadbare gown, readers will feel the loss, too.
While the book is slim, and some might say slight, its genuineness speaks not only of the author’s satisfaction and acceptance of his life, but also of his real skill as a writer. This is a sweet tale that will appeal to anyone who has learned over time how to carve out a life with someone else.
Also available as an ebook.