People in my life modeled what great marriages looked like. I don’t think any of them actually talked to me about marriage. They simply lived it. From the time I was a small child, my eyes and my heart noticed couples that still had that spark. Some were relatives, some friends and others just acquaintances that I watched from afar. Regardless of whether your family has long standing marriages, you were raised by single parents, or you grew up in really challenging situation, we all need models of great marriages to both inspire us and to educate us.
Homer and Millicent -Married 70 Years
My mom’s parents, Homer and Millicent met on a blind date in 1928 in Southern California. Millicent, raised in Costa Rica came to the states for nursing school. Homer, the oldest son of seven drove his family from Oklahoma in a 1920’s pickup turned into a wagon. Both must have been brave as they sought a new life in California.
Grandpa, the typical stoic Norwegian shrank from emotions but dearly loved and served his wife. Grandma was in charge of the cooking but Grandpa fixed the cocktails before dinner. Week nights were filled with square dancing or a game of scrabble. Small notebooks filled their scores with Grandma usually winning. They loved to garden and created a jungle of plants that became their own personal paradise. As a kid I remember the constant travel adventures they took that added another piece of colored yarn on their travel map. Though fiercely independent, they were equally devoted to each other even after 70 years of marriage.
Dee and Pearl – Married 64 Years
My dad’s parents, Dee and Pearl, moved to California to avoid shaming the family name when they were forced to get married. Though they had a rocky beginning, their marriage ended up rock steady. Dee always with a sparkle in his eye loved to flirt with his hard-working wife. In retirement they still held hands, fished together, canned peaches and sat cozied up together on the couch.
For years, Pearl covered for Dee’s Alzheimer’s as she took care of him. Even though simple things confused him, if he was near Pearl, he had a peace and a calmness that came from years of faithfulness and trust. When Pearl finally had to put Dee in a home, she spent many days sitting by his side, until he was gone.
Dick and Joan – Married 66 Years
My friends Dick and Joan had 66 amazing years of marriage. What I noticed most about their relationship was the way that their eyes would light up when they talked about each other. Even though life on the farm called them to different chores and interests, they were each other’s biggest fans. Joan would brag about Dick’s latest wood working project, while Dick quietly built Joan a beautiful sewing table. Joan would cook, Dick would bring in the firewood. They didn’t share tasks but they tirelessly served each other without becoming resentful or grumbling.
Dick and Joan also chose to avoid any and all screens – TV’s, computer, and smart phones. That might seem old fashioned but I think about how content they were to just talk or read next to each other.
After Joan died, Dick just never seemed to find something to live for. For the rest of his life, he slept in his barcelounger, rather than face Joan’s absence in their double bed. After 2 long years apart, he finally joined her in heaven. I can only imagine the reception he received.
The lessons I took from these marriages were –
Be each other’s biggest fans
Hold hands every chance you get
Turn off the screens
Don’t lose yourself, share yourself
Go to bed at the same time
Serve one another
Don’t lose the sparkle in your eye
Find marriages that you admire and study them. How do they care for their marriage? How do they care for each other?
What marriages inspired you and what made them different?