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Next month marks 45 years of commitment, sacrifice

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A TV host was interviewing an elderly couple. "How old is your wife?" the husband was asked. "She's 92 and may she live to be 110." "And how old are you?" "I am also 92." "How long would you like to live?" "Until I am 111." "Why would you want your wife to live to 110 and you to 111?" "To tell you the truth," the husband answered, "I'd like one year of peace!"

Gloria and I will celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary Sept. 1. Many readers ask whether Gloria is real or just a figment of my imagination. I can vouch that she is a flesh and blood, vibrant, loving person.

If you need proof, look at my smiling face in the picture above. (Gloria reads this column, you know.)

I met my school teacher wife in 1963 on a blind date on George Washington's birthday. She lived in the heights of the Bronx and I in the depths of Manhattan's Lower East Side. On our first date, I unintentionally forgot to bring my wallet and could not pay for dinner. Gloria dipped into her purse and paid the bill with her "mad money."

There was no talk all the way home and I thought I was a dead duck. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and Gloria gave me a second chance. I enclosed the money I owed her in a passionate love letter — which she promptly sent back corrected and graded. I received an A-minus. I knew then that she cared for me.

In my 15-year-old jalopy, I traveled the West Side Highway every Saturday night for my dates with Gloria. Invariably, I would get a flat tire on my return trips. Have you ever tried changing a flat tire on the West Side Highway after midnight on a bitter winter night with frozen fingers?

So what was I to do to remedy this situation? I did what any other clear-thinking, red-blooded American man would have done if they were dating Gloria: I proposed marriage.

All through our wedding, I gazed into Gloria's eyes and she into mine. We spent so much time gazing into each other's eyes we almost forgot to collect the wedding gifts.

As man and wife, I immediately let Gloria know who would be the boss of the house. I planted my feet firmly on the floor, looked her straight in the eye and said, "G ... G ... G ... Gloria ... you are the boss."

Our honeymoon was unforgettable. Because of a lack of money, we spent it at my sister's house in Buffalo. If you have ever been to Buffalo, you know how unforgettable that experience could be. On the first night with my bride, I raced up to the bedroom and jumped into bed. Gloria appeared shortly thereafter, sat in a chair and stared out the window.

"Aren't you coming to bed, dear"? I inquired. "No," she said. "Mother told me this would be the most beautiful night of my life, and I don't want to miss a single minute of it." And I must be the only man in the world who, having returned from that honeymoon, received a report card reading, "Alex is neat and friendly and shows a keen interest in fun and games."

Incidentally, Gloria and I vowed never to go to bed mad. We stay up until the problem is resolved. Last Valentine's Day, we stayed up until spring. I told Gloria that a husband like me is like fine wine: He gets better with age. The next day, she locked me in the cellar.

Anybody who claims that marriage is a 50-50 proposition does not know the first thing about women or fractions. Gloria and I have a perfect understanding. I do not try to run her life nor do I try to run mine.

We have been happily married for 45 years because of our compatibility. We both like to fight. The true secret of a happy marriage is to find someone you could be comfortable arguing with.

Hannah Montana once said, "An anniversary is a date which is an occasion or commemoration if it is remembered ... and an occasion for consternation, confrontation, castigation and condemnation if it is not." I once forgot mine. Oh, what a commemoration.

Henry Ford, on his 50th wedding anniversary, gave his formula for a successful married life. He said it was the same formula he had used to make his automobile so successful: "Stick to one model."

For 45 years, I've stuck with one model and I plan to keep that model going for 45 more.

Contact Alex Berger at news@timesledger.com.

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