Steven and I always laugh about the fact that we never think about my parents lives before meeting each other.
Of course their lives began when they married each other, right?
If that is the case, then my parents are forty-one years old today. Two spring chickens; still in love after all of these years. And yet, their love doesn’t exactly look like the love that I see on romantic comedies.
There was never a moment (that I saw) when my dad lost my mom in dramatic fashion, and with a grand gesture, won her heart back. There was never any drama that I remember. Their marriage was largely marked by calm waters, or at least, that is what I saw.
What I didn’t see was the two of them holding fast to each other when everything seemed to be lost. I didn’t see the two of them gasping for breath when they didn’t have the finances to keep our large family afloat. I didn’t see the two of them discuss job loss or employee strikes or my mother’s broken heart when she returned to work. I never witnessed the two of them discuss how my siblings and I should be raised or disciplined or taught. I didn’t see my mom’s tear-stained cheeks after the thought that she may have lost my dad forever. I never heard my mother utter a foul word about my father. The same was true about my father. In fact, the only thing I heard the two of them say, sometimes jokingly, was “I’m glad I married you.”
After four decades of oneness, how can they say that with assurance? I have a hunch its that, even when they thought they were fighting with each other, they were always a team. The two of them battened down the hatches and fought everything that life had to throw in their direction as soldiers fighting for the same cause. They were resolved to preserve their marriage, even though life can often rob us of romance. But the two of them found magic in the mundane…or at least, that is how it appears.
I had an opportunity to talk to my dad this summer about his relationship with my mom. He told me stories about how they met, fell in love, decided to commit to each other, and got married. He told me stories about his big, life-threatening accidents while serving our country. With the first accident, our family looked a lot like my family: a happy couple and a small baby. He had his wits about him and made his way to safety. His first thoughts were of survival.
During his last accident, he noted that his first thoughts ran to my mom and siblings. He had to make it home to them: no matter what. My father is one of the smartest men that I know, and yet his loyalty to my family seems so simplistic. He loved us because he wanted to. He never had a thought to leave because he always wanted to come home to my mother.
She made our home welcoming and warm. She always had good food for us…even on the days she just didn’t feel like it. To this day, she is the one I want by my side when I am sick or pained. She is the greatest comforter that I know, whether by nature or practice. She has been the hands and feet of Jesus in the most unassuming ways possible. I can only imagine what a blessing she has been to my dad throughout the storms of life.
And dad is the first person to tell you that. He always furrowed his brow at his co-workers who lamented going home. My dad couldn’t wait to go home. In his choice to come home, and his joy in his marriage, my dad gave us another portrait of Jesus; he was always strong in his convictions and stood as a reminder that there is absolute truth in this world. And yet, we could approach him when we really needed a daddy.
I really don’t think about my parents’ lives before each other. And I’m sure they don’t either after forty one years. The two of them have given us a template for how to love in marriage, and a visible portrait of how Christ loves the church. As my feeble mind understands marriage, it seems that more of each other and less of yourself is the key to longevity. The goal is oneness; not an expansive divide. While my mother and father have maintained their own individual interests and hobbies, they make a point to choose to love each other, no matter the circumstance. When the world has baited them to “find themselves,” they found each other. They grew together. That kind of love is better than any romantic comedy I’ve seen.
Happy anniversary, mom and dad. And thank you for choosing to love each other.