You see, earlier this month my Mother and Father-in-Law celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary, which is something else and hard to beat! However, yesterday my Grandparents celebrated number 57! Yes, 57! Between my wife and I we've been fortunate enough to see 90 years of marriage between two couples. Talk about having an example set! How the hell could either of us ask for better than that?! It's truly astounding not just that each couple has made it this far, but they've seemingly done it in entirely different manners.
Now, this post is not meant to be is some profound discussion on the history, moral issues, or legalities of marriage just so we're clear. It's certainly a worthwhile discussion but not for today. When I'm speaking of marriage in this article is pertains to the deep and long held beliefs of two specific couples who've worked and fought and upheld the idea that you don't leave one another simply because times get tough. Cancer has been fought by both families, losses have been suffered, tough decisions have been made, tears have have been fought back and released, and yet when you talk to them, the laughs still flow freely and each couple seems as in love today as when they said their "I do's" so many years ago. I have no doubt there were times when each couple felt up against it and the thought of doing something different crossed their minds, if even for a moment. But they didn't. There's lessons and value in that the our following generations can learn from.
Each couple has interesting and awesome histories that brought them to where they are today. My in-laws raised 6 girls while moving both abroad and throughout the US. They've succeeded and failed with jobs and businesses, fostered over 30 children, chased dreams for themselves and their children, and have probably developed more deep relationships in their lifetimes than I've actually met people. I have no doubt that they had some tough times but their attitudes pertaining to life and by extension to one another is amazing. In one way or another, each of their daughters, and as I'm attesting others whom they've come into contact with, have benefited from witnessing how they work together both as a married couple and more importantly as friends. While others dread spending time with their in-laws (apparently); I wish I could see mine more often. Given that I'm not the biggest fan of people, that's saying something. ;)
When it comes how their lives played out, the two couples couldn't be more different. While my in-laws have been travelers in every sense of the word, my grandparents chose to spend the majority of their years in a single town and on a single plot of land. (I say majority because there was some time where they lived elsewhere early in their married years.) They were teenage parents who lived and worked day to day just to get by doing whatever work presented itself. My grandmother raised her three children before deciding that she wanted to return both to college and then the workforce (returning to college is something both these magnificent women have in common) while my grandfather spent his years doing a number of things, most of them very well and earning a reputation as hard worker (and hard head at times. According to my wife it's a trait I share) Things weren't always easy but in the hardest times they leaned on one another to get through. Again, lessons that can and should be passed along to us generations that are following.
While both couples have come to this point on their journey having traveled different roads, they absolutely share some similarities as well. Both contain people who have stubborn sides. Both couples love to laugh. Both are able to acknowledge that life often isn't sunshine and rainbows and neither has a whole lot of tolerance for bullshit. They answer questions honestly both to each other and to others and they have a propensity for telling you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. They'll help anyone once but if you screw them don't come around again and you'll be hard pressed to find four harder working people. They've passed down knowledge, wisdom, and virtues to the following generations while fully acknowledging that they made their own mistakes along the way and therefore others will too. They worked and fought, and played, and learned through life together; as individuals who became part of a whole that was bigger than any could achieve alone.
|Mates for Life|
It's interesting that when you look at the backgrounds of my wife and I we almost match the relationships witnessed growing up. At the same time we both have a desire to bring elements of the other into our lives. Our aim is to learn from the mistakes while enhancing the best of what we've witnessed and been taught. I'm not well traveled and have barely left Maine for vacations let alone lived elsewhere while my wife is finally setting down some roots after over 30 years of movement. She's teaching me how to be comfortable in environments I'm unaccustomed to while I'm trying to extol to her the benefits of having and developing a solid home base. It's a balancing act for the two of us to develop both a future where we can have what we want in a home while at the same time fitting in much more travel and is one of the many areas of our life together where we spent much time in discussion in an attempt to find solutions that will both benefit and keep one another happy.
Looking at both sets of couples, I see many things that I want and so does my wife. We often talk about our desire to have the types of relationships we witnessed growing up. I often joke with her that this is it for me. If we should divorce I'll never get married again. It's funny but it's also the truth. We both want the 50 year marriage. Like the people we've learned from, her and I both took and take our vows seriously. "For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad." Each of us have an ideal we're trying to attain and the only way to achieve it is by taking our vows seriously. And while life will seem more complicated than it needs to be at times and will actually be more complicated than we'd prefer at others, if we can continue to focus on the simple things, someday perhaps someone will write about being as inspired by our marriage as each of us have been about the ones we were fortunate enough to witness.