Today, June 5th, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. In honor of the occasion, last Sunday we had a dinner reception for them with their friends and family. The event truly turned out better than I could have imagined, even if we were a little concerned in the beginning because Mom was having a rough health day. The following is some thoughts I shared at their party.
There once was a girl named Joanne. She worked at First National Bank with a few friends who liked to go cruising when they weren’t working. One of those friends, Diane, thought it’d be a good idea to set Joanne up with a friend of hers named Paul. Diane and her boyfriend, Del, knew Paul from high school.
The day after Valentine’s Day, February 15, 1964, they went to the movies to see Love with the Proper Stranger. Joanne thought Paul was tall, and later would describe him as “sweet”. Paul knew right away he wanted to get to know her better. Of course, they ended up having many more dates over the next several months, fell in love and decided to get married. A June wedding was planned for the following year.
One of my favorite stories from when they first began dating sprung from tragedy. My grandpa had a pretty serious accident at work that landed him in the hospital for several weeks. This happened April 1st; so they’d not even been dating for two months at that time. They’d stopped by the hospital before going out on a planned dinner date. As they headed out, Dad, being the gentleman he is, told her, “I’m not trying to be a cheapskate, but I know your heart is back there with your Dad.” They spent their “date” in the hospital with Grandpa. By the way, he wasn’t Grandpa back then, it’s just hard not to think of my mother’s father as anyone but Grandpa.
I tell you this story for two reasons. First, I love hearing stories of how couples met one another. And second, I think it speaks to what has characterized their relationship these past fifty years—a love of, and devotion to, family.
Although I haven’t been around the entire 50 years of their marriage, I’ve learned a few things about marriage, relationships, family and life in general over the years from my parents. Some notable things include:
- The first anniversary is celebrated as the paper anniversary. A toilet plunger does not make for a good anniversary present. Even if it’s not presented as an actual gift, possibly even in jest, the offering of spending the last of the household money for the week on such a necessity that close to your wedding anniversary is sure to be a bad idea.
- Dogs that have middle names like “Skyrocket” can be temperamental. Scamp Skyrocket, though lovable to us, his own little pack at home, didn’t find it necessary to share the love with neighborhood children who played tag with us kids in the yard. Or just about anybody who visited the house in the first five minutes of their visit. Unless they had Milkbones or were Grandpa and Grandma. So think twice before you give your dog a middle name.
- Hobbies are good for your soul and help keep you young. Growing up in a home where artistry was admired and encouraged made me an appreciator of many creative outlets. Mom had her dolls, both the porcelain ones she painted and put together and the ones she crafted with cloth bodies and embroidered faces. Dad had his model railroad trains and their layouts, complete with buildings he hand-designed and built from balsam wood. What kid couldn’t have fun with that? Mom would take us to ceramic studios and let us get messy with paint and art projects at home. We also visited the book store almost every Friday night while Dad went to his Model Railroad Club meetings at Mark Twain Hobby. I learned to love books, reading and scratch and sniff stickers at the old Bookmark Bookstore. Mom and Dad taught me that creative people never get bored.
- Just because you were once athletic and a wrestler doesn’t mean your teenage son won’t be able to outrun you at some point. Although the offense has long been forgotten, the shocked look on Kevin’s face when he realized he had to kick it into high gear to outrun Dad is hard to forget. Neither is Dad’s answer when he had to concede to losing the chase after Kevin made a hard jog to the right and was able to get just out of reach. His words: “He has to come home some time.”
- Scooch over and let your kids snuggle up with you when they get scared in the middle of the night. You may get an elbow or a foot in the face, but the security it gives them growing up knowing that you are always there for them, even during the night, outweighs the back pain you may have the next day by a landslide. And if you don’t tell your friends or family about your thunderstorm-fearing child the next day (or at least don’t get caught by said child!), you get bonus points.
- Dishwashing liquid is not the same as dishwasher soap and thus are NOT interchangeable. If you put dishwashing liquid into your dishwasher, you will get more bubbles in the kitchen than one kitchen floor should be exposed to in its lifetime. And it takes a lot of effort to get those bubbles all cleaned up. They spew out of the dishwasher like lava from a volcano. And though it’s soap, it’s still very messy. Remember that for some things there are no substitutions.
- A good way to size up your friends is to see how they act around your parents and siblings. This I didn’t believe until I had my own kids. Just like Mom said, I can always tell what kind of person my kids’ friends are by if they acknowledge me as a real, live human being in the house. Sorry I ever doubted you, Mom.
- There’s always a place to meet in the middle. Dad is six foot three. Mom is…not. Before such luxuries as tilt steering wheels and power seats, drivers who had such a difference in height had to improvise, so Mom had a denim, blue-jean looking pillow she would sit on so she could see over the steering wheel and still reach the pedals of our ’75 Ford Torino. It just goes to show that it’s not necessarily compromise that makes a situation work, sometimes it’s adaptability.
- After your husband’s had a long day at work, when he’s tired and hungry, is not the best time to show him all the bargains you picked up when you were shopping that day. Even if it’s the cutest thing ever and was on sale for an unbelievably low, low price. Let him come in, sit back in the recliner and get some food in his belly. THEN you can show him what you bought. Note that this is also the optimum time to show him any damage to the car that may have occurred and Kevin’s report card.
- I’ve learned that to stay together 50 years, you need to be patient, forgiving, and learn to live with what you may see as some of your spouse’s faults. You have to realize that there are highs and lows in life, but you always have each other to lean on–just being there for that other person—sometimes as a sounding board, sometimes to tell the painful truth and sometimes just to laugh at an inside joke the two of you share. Always remember to love, even during the times when you don’t actually like the person at the moment. It’s okay to agree to disagree.
So, Mom and Dad, thank you for teaching me to cherish family, to nurture my faith and that it’s okay to do things my own way. I am blessed to be your daughter. Happy Anniversary! I love you.