This year, on March 12, my parents will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. They were married in 1942, just as World War II was rearing its monstrous head. Daddy was 19 and Mom was barely 15.
By today’s standards that is young, and the naysayers would wag their heads and moan, “It won’t last. Everything is stacked against them.”
My parents outlasted the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and are making it through the War on Terror.
They lasted through chicken pox, measles, flu epidemics, accidents, surgeries, heart attacks, strokes, blindness, deafness, nervous breakdowns and broken bones.
They scrimped through driving school bus, working on the U.S. Forest Service fire watch tower, trading shift work at the paper mill, driving log truck and selling eggs.
They weathered snowstorms, droughts, locoweed, lightning storms, windstorms, hailstorms and squash/potato bugs.
They cowboyed their small herd of cattle through rustlers, six feet of snow, broken fences, pinkeye, coyotes, wild motorists, low prices, bottomless markets and government regulations.
They nurtured six kids from birth, to toddler, to teenager, to marriages, to grandbabies, to grandparents – and they are still going strong. With over 100 in their posterity, I think we can safely say, “The naysayers were wrong!”
How did they do it? Marriage is not a walk in the bright gardens of life where the path leads through a plethora of blooming delights and sweet aromas of love.
Marriage is climbing through the roughest terrain earth has to offer. It is canyons of misunderstanding with steep and rugged cliffs to climb.
It is raging rivers of tears and unrequited emotion to fjord and mountains of unforeseen tragedy and adversity, interlaced with a few hand-in-hand walks under the stars through hand-grown gardens of your own making.
Marriage is not for the faint of heart or the love-blind. It is the wide-open eyes of commitment intermingled with acts of charity. Like the old saying, “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”
My parents lived by a double standard. In other words, they expected more of themselves than they expected of each other. Mom took on the housework with all the vigor of any pioneer housewife, and Daddy worked out of the home providing for the family.
Pretty standard for the good old days, but when it came to the division of chores, they both pitched in without being nagged or cajoled.
The garden belonged to both of them. Daddy cooked breakfast and washed dishes. He helped kids with homework and picked up after himself.
He cleaned toilets and made beds. He stayed up nights, walked the floor with sick children and read stories to his children when his eyes were half-shut from the want of sleep. Mom rode horses to gather cattle. She ran the branding iron and kept the tally.
She helped the cattle birth their calves. She milked the cows and mothered her children while she drove the tractor to plant and harvest the corn. She helped to get winter firewood and build fences. Both Daddy and Mom worked to harvest and store food for winter.
Neither of them looked at the other and complained, “I’m working like a dog. Why don’t you do your fair share?” They were concerned more with doing their fair share than monitoring what the other person was doing.
Were there times when they did not get along? You bet! I suppose somewhere in their marriage they concluded that there were a few things they would have to disagree on, but they would not let the disagreement destroy what they had.
They were both willing to concede for the good of the family. My mother told me that the clergyman who performed their marriage ceremony gave them some advice.
“Never go to bed angry.” They tried to follow the counsel all of their married life. Not every problem can be solved in one setting. Putting the disagreement aside to discuss it another time is not a bad idea. The bedroom is a place for sharing love, not solving the world’s problems.
My parents were loyal and true to each other no matter where they were. Daddy was in England for the first two years of their marriage. Mom was home with their first child. Who knew when the war would be over? Who would ever know if they cheated just a little bit?
They were oceans apart and who knew if the war would steal away their youth? It would have been so easy to find somebody else. It would have been so easy to tell lies of rationalization, but they chose to be true.
Daddy was dubbed “Deacon” in the army because of his integrity, and Mom spent her time with her family working to buy a house for them to live in when the war was over. Daddy came home to take up where they left off.
She was ready to love him completely and cherish him forever. If either of them had broken trust, their life would have been in shambles and my life would have never been the same. Their choice to be faithful has affected many generations, some of them yet unborn.
My parents never talked in terms of defeat. They always knew there were answers to every problem, and they worked together to find them.
When the snow was six feet deep out on the cattle range, they bought snowmobiles and used the hood of an old car for a sled to take hay to the stranded cattle.
When the locoweed destroyed the herd, they bought new cattle and started over. When Daddy had a stroke, Mom nursed him back to full capacity.
When the drought came, they figured out a watering system. When the lightning and hail destroyed the garden, they prayed it back to health. They are people of causative faith. They don’t just believe; they act upon their belief and help the Lord make miracles happen.
Daddy had not finished high school when he went into the military, but he didn’t let that stop him. Later in life, he took a job as a school bus driver.
The bus ride was 30 miles over a dirt road. He decided to go to school with the students and get his high school diploma, instead of sitting in the bus waiting for the time to pass. He has always made his time productive.
Mom never finished high school, but she has educated herself by reading books and asking questions. She is a wonderful gardener, quilter and cattlewoman, and she is up on all the latest trends. People like my parents are rare in our society.
People who think marriage is love at first sight and love forever are in for a big surprise. Love is a day-by-day new beginning and a partnership with God.
My parents understood the meaning of teamwork. They understood that love and marriage is commitment and charity. They pulled as a team of well-trained horses.
They learned early that kicking each other only slowed the progress and destroyed the wagon. They learned to pull equally, especially during the hard times, and they were able to climb some amazing precipices.
This thought from Gordon B. Hinckley says so much of what my parents understood and lived:
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people.
Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise ... Life is like an old-time rail journey – delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
My parents, through their 70 years of marriage, always thanked God. They were grateful in the good times as well as the bad. Now that they have to lean on each other more than ever, they seek God’s help more intently. They are filled with faith and hope, setting an example and a path for others to follow.
Seasons of Our Love
In Springtime, when our love was new,
we saw the coming years as one sweet endless day.
For we knew spring love was perfect love
and there could be no greater.
In Summer when our garden
was rich with growing,
our Springtime love seemed so small.
Summer’s love in towering grandeur
made us wonder if Spring was love at all.
And Autumn came with harvest light.
The gathering of the fruit we’d sown together.
Hand in hand beneath the silver moon
we saw our love anew.
Spring and Summer love were shadows
of the love of Golden Years.
As Winter’s silver frosts our hair
and age with ice slows our bones
while quiet snow waits to cover up
our lives,Winter’s love is most glorious.
For together we wait for the Eternal Spring
where perfect love becomes more perfect
in the endless seasons of the Son. PD