A few days ago, my parents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
If you're like me, it's almost beyond the ability to fathom sixty-five years of marriage. It's just such a "WOW!" number.
After my mother threatened bodily harm upon me for throwing a surprise 50th anniversary party for them, I asked friends and family to shower them with cards for their 65th anniversary. When I spoke with them yesterday, they'd received almost fifty and were excited at the prospect that more might arrive in the mailbox this week.
As I talked to each of them about the wonderful milestone they reached, I asked what they thought made their marriage successful and lasting.
Mom's response: "Don't let the little stuff bug you, even when you know you're right and he's wrong."
Dad's words of wisdom: "Tolerance. You have to learn to have tolerance. If there's something you don't like, don't focus on it — ignore it. You can't stay married to someone you can't tolerate."
I think they'd both say their marriage hasn't been perfect, far from it. But it's been good and strong.
My parents met their senior year of high school. Dad was the new kid in town, having moved into the area just before school started when my grandparents left behind their peach orchard in Colorado and moved to an eastern Oregon farm.
Mom had lived in the area since she was eleven, when my grandparents packed up five kids and a dog in a car and drove all the way from Missouri to their new farm. She loved sports (although the girls only had clubs for athletic endeavors way back then instead of teams), had a flair for sewing and (according to Dad) was full of sass and spunk.
She was also one of the "bathing beauties" chosen to represent the community when a new pool opened in town. (And please don't tell her I shared this photo or there will be one less author in the group when she puts a hit out on me.)
The day of their wedding, my dad hopped on a train and rode it to town from where he worked a few hours away. Mom was a telephone operator at the time, working a swing shift. She left work at 9 p.m. and hurried to the farm of her soon-to-be in-laws where the wedding would take place.
In the hour before the clock struck midnight, they were joined in marriage in a very simple ceremony. They both wore gray suits, the flowers were gladiolas, and their two-day honeymoon was a camping trip.
Not the stuff of fairy tales, but perhaps, just perhaps, the stuff of a happy ever after.
I never once wondered or worried about my parents getting divorced. They were a united front against the storms or life as well as the joys of triumphs.
From observing them, I learned a lot about relationships.
Mom is the one who wants to take care of everyone, making sure they're fed and comfortable. She's more serious and the one who is always thinking, pondering, worrying.
Somehow, somewhere in those sixty-five years of marriage, they found a balance that works for them. Dad has a great sense of humor (sometimes at Mom's expense) that she's learned to indulge or ignore, as the individual case my warrant. In the last few years, I've particularly noticed how well they work off each others' strengths to overcome their weaknesses. They've given an all new meaning to the term "helpmate" for me.
As I create characters and build relationships in my stories, I'm grateful for the example my parents have given me of what a real lifelong love looks like.
One that's lasted sixty-five years and is still going strong.
The Cowboy's Summer Love, answer this question in the comments below: What one word of advice for a happy marriage would you share with a new bride?
Winner will be notified Wednesday, August 12.
When she isn’t writing or consuming unhealthy amounts of chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, and fondly recalls the days of her youth spent on an Eastern Oregon farm.
She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
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