A Girl Looks at 80: Love and Marriage

I recall an adult Sunday school class some years ago when the teacher was talking about relationships within the home.   He read that your relationship with God should come first, then your relationship with your spouse and last is your relationship with your children.   This was ultimately best for the children because they would  receive the modeling that they would some day emulate.   I was certain that I was screwing that up within my home more often that not, but it was something to consider.  With seven children who had varied schedules and interests, it wasn’t possible for my parents to put themselves first very often, but they did steal time away together, took trips without us at least once a year,  and you certainly could never pit one against the other if you wanted something.

My Mom was a year ahead of my Dad in high school.  He was outgoing, athletic and a friend to everyone.  She was reed thin, bookish and serious about school.  She says he fell in love with her brain because she wasn’t exactly built like a starlet.  Her words, not mine.  He pursued, she resisted.  She ultimately caved when after missing prom because of rheumatic fever, Dad showed up to her bedside with a wrist corsage.   She finished college and encouraged him to do the same.   They married and started having babies.   The flower child/Woodstock era of the 60s passed them by as they spent those years growing a dairy business, washing diapers and just trying to keep toddlers alive.   I’m going to cheat now because this blog below by Mom written two years after my Dad died is a better tribute to that 43 year marriage.

July 16, 2006

It’s a hot, sultry day much like one 45 years ago. It’s the day Bill and I were married, and my girls were all trying to find something for me to do to take my mind off the date. They knew that anything they did would be appreciated but not successful. 

It isn’t so sad to remember, and in many ways it is complete joy to think of our marriage-its beginning, its many years of love and happiness, and its end that came too soon.  The  thing I find so difficult to  put into words is just how all those years and the relationship that grew between two people sustained and fed my soul.  

In many ways we were so differently- he liked hunting, bird dogs, and being with lots of people. Friday night football was as essential as air and water to him. On the other hand, give me a good book or a Broadway show, a few close friends, a hot bath, and I could shut out the rest of the world for a time.  

How we were different or how we were similar was superseded by a profound love and respect for each other that gave us each what we needed in our lives. I told Bill not too many months before he died, that if I were to die first, I wanted him to know that he had made me as happy as I could have possibly been.  His sweet reply was “You make it so easy!”

  I thought that perhaps I should tell our daughters what made their Dad’s and my relationship so special, but I don’t really need to do that.  Who they are as young women speaks  more eloquently than my words about a home that allowed them to be all that God meant them to be.  I’ve always felt that what a child (or what all of us need) is to feel safe physically and emotionally, and to be loved without conditions or limits. Bill gave that great gift to his house of women, never condescending or expecting less of us because we were female. Our daughters rose to the challenge, and whether they were playing basketball or tennis or singing in a musical production, they always gave it their best. And when I wanted to have foster children, even with  seven of our own, he never questioned my sanity.  I, on the other hand, wondered if I was a bit daft!  

Forty-five years, Bill.  Wasn’t it just yesterday when you first loved me? Wasn’t it just yesterday when you made the Dean’s List at Tech after we were married? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we held our first baby and marveled at what love could do? Wasn’t it just yesterday when we milked cows and made hay, grew a garden and watched our girls get on school buses?  Wasn’t it just yesterday when teenage boys started hanging around our house?  Wasn’t it just yesterday when our first grandchild was born?  Wasn’t it yesterday when we finally had time exclusively for each other?  Wasn’t it yesterday when we talked of growing old together and that we were ok with that? 

But it’s today, Bill, and my heart is broken. 

Sigh.    I don’t doubt for a moment that this 80th birthday celebration would be better if Dad were around. Our hands have grown weary of the boot strap pulling over the past fourteen years.  All seven of us have had sustaining marriages that have been challenged by a myriad of circumstances but we have our parents to thank for modeling affection, patience, and undying commitment.

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