At 8:00 p.m. on September 9, 1950 my parents were married at Saint Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland Oregon. Every anniversary they take the opportunity to review the past year and spend some moments to dream about the future. They also jokingly (I think it’s a joke) decide whether they should “re-up” for another year of marriage and keep this partnership going. And so far, they have agreed to stay together. As my mother says, it looks like this relationship is going to stick.
Sixty-five years. It’s a daunting number. Their partnership has spanned decades that have brought social, technological, and political changes that were unimaginable in those early post-war years. Side by side they have weathered a lifetime of events – personally and globally – from sad and tragic to joyous and glorious.
As a pastor, I engage in pre-marital counseling with couples preparing for marriage. I encourage them to consider which marriages they admire and which relationships they might want to emulate. One of the great blessings of my life is that I experienced first-hand my role models for marriage. Over the years I have observed my parents intentionally nurture their relationship as it continues to evolve as an active, thriving, and love-filled union.
Here is some of what I have learned from their love story:
- Be willing to take a risk. My mom lived in Oregon, my dad was from CT; they met when my mother’s brother married an East Coast girl. Over the course of three years, my parents saw each other only four times before their wedding day. They trusted their gut feeling that this was a relationship worth working for.
- Dare to reveal who you are. Hundreds of letters helped them bridge the 3000 mile gap between them. Each note offered glimpses of their hopes, dreams, disappointments, feelings, and questions. These shared imaginings and stories formed the foundation of their relationship.
- Learn new things. My mother was a 20 year old city girl who moved to rural Connecticut surrounded by dairy farms and apple orchards. When my father left for work (they only had one car), she was left on her own to meet the neighbors and discover the mysteries of gardening, preserving, and canning. She is one of the bravest people I know – she dove into this new lifestyle wholeheartedly, determined to make this challenging situation work.
- Cocktail hour is important. It isn’t about the drinking (sherry for my mom, Scotch for my dad), but about the listening. Every evening this was their precious time to sit down together, talk about their day, and catch up with one another. It taught me the value of taking (and making) time for my partner.
- Say thank you. My parents thank each other for big and little things – thank you for taking out the trash, for cooking supper, for changing the lightbulb, for being there when I need you. They taught me the value of appreciation.
- Notice at the sunset. Our tiny house on top of a big hill faced west. Almost every evening my parents would call my brothers and me together to admire the changing colors and growing dusk as the sun sank behind the hills. Even something that happens every single day can be precious.
- Invite your friends over. My parents hosted cocktail parties, bridge gatherings, and countless holidays for an eclectic band of relatives and friends. They encouraged us to do the same – cast parties, birthday celebrations, Easter morning sunrise service for the youth group – everyone was welcome. My appreciation for hospitality began in that small cottage that always had room for everyone.
- Make the best of any situation. A broken down car was an opportunity to walk home and get some exercise, the electricity going out was a chance to eat by candlelight, a sudden change in the plans was an invitation to try something new. My parents never dwelled in disappointment but instead discovered the unexpected that was offeredWhen two people get married, no one can know what the future will hold. I was blessed to grow up with two people filled with love, integrity, creativity, strength and courage. That is something worth celebrating.
- Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.
- (My parents dancing at my niece’s wedding, August 2015)