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Fair sparks memories of meeting my man

By Lori Pankonin

Chase County Fair time brings memories from all angles . . . from my childhood, to teen years and dating, to watching our children soak in the thrills, to the hours of volunteer experiences, to seeing people galore and to experiencing the joy of excited grandchildren.
What stands out vividly as a very key connection in my lifetime was that evening 41 years ago when I met Russ Pankonin. That’s all it was . . . an introduction. He had a girlfriend and I had other interests but there was something that clicked. As the year passed and we’d end up in the same places, interest sparked again but there were always other factors.
A full year later in the fall, we had our first official date to homecoming. Yes, I invited a Grant boy to homecoming in Imperial. And yes, I made the first official ask. He instantly made my heart go pitter-patter and I was hooked. But I had already agreed to going to another homecoming the next weekend. And I kept that date. It was the very next week that I had his big class ring. We were going steady . . . just like that. Talk about falling hard and fast. I was madly in love. Puppy love is maybe what you’d think. I was 15 years old and he was 16.
We had a couple break ups and tried to date others when he went off to college. But we’re convinced we were meant for each other. This week marked 35 years since we’ve been hitched. I’ll have to say it’s been a good ride.
As we ate an anniversary dinner, we talked about what memories come to the top from those three and a half decades. Ironically, it involved births and deaths. Yes, the amazing miracle of the birth of our two daughters, then three grandchildren forms a bond that’s indescribable.
And losing my father and Russ’s parents each brought touching appreciation for how lucky we’ve been to have loving, Christian parents and strong family connections.
Happiness and sadness. Laughter and tears. Good times and bad. It takes a mixture to make a real life experience. And it takes give and take, forgiving and being forgiven to have contentment.     
The one common thread that comes with each emotion, each experience is our unending faith in God.
Things happen for a reason is a common realization that we’ve repeated again and again. Sometimes we had a different plan from the direction reality took.
Russ is my best friend, and as we all know, friends have their tiffs. It’s way easier to get frustrated and agitated at your spouse and closest loved ones than with other acquaintances.
Why is that? Why do we go to all extremes to please our partner during the dating days, then let the direction move to our own needs as marriage progresses?
We catch ourselves gritching and yelling at each other in ways we would never talk to strangers. One point that comes to mind from marriage counseling those decades ago is that marriage isn’t a 50/50 commitment. It takes 100 percent from both sides to make it work. And it is work. But it’s worth it.
Here’s to healthy relationships and to life! Happy Anniversary, Russ!