For my parents’ 45th anniversary in 2012, I
threw them a surprise party. I interviewed them ahead of time and told them that it was for a blog post I was working on about tips for a lasting marriage. My secret intention was to read their answers at the party, which everyone enjoyed. However, so that I uphold my word, here is a long overdue but timely post from my amazing parents’ experience, wisdom and humor. I interviewed them separately so the first time they heard the other person’s reply was at the party.
For those of you who know my theory about trees and clouds, you will clearly see that my dad is a cloud of clouds and my mom is more of a tree. More on that another time.
Me: What was the best advice you have received or been given on marriage?
Dad: I don’t know if it was best, but what comes to mind was a casual casual mini-moment in a sermon. It was the only time I was at this church as a student before we were married in Evansville. Just north of Chicago. I wrote it down. It caught my attention and it stayed. And it’s validity has been confirmed ever since in whatever area, money, decision making, relationships.. because it is a foundation point and that’s the key. Marriage is by faith. A person has no idea what it will look like. What twists and turns it will take, what flexibility it will require. And adaptability. And steadfastness that marriage the relationship will require. So you agree to it as a concept with no idea what it looks like but you agree to it by faith. You can’t go back. It’s very forward-looking in a positive directional sense. Colossians 3:15 says something that would be helpful.
Mom: I never remember these things. I don’t remember if someone told me but choose the right person. Be smart about who you choose.
Me: What do you remember about your wedding day?
Dad: There will be several things – 3 with no particular order.
1. As we were walking up the aisle, Lil noticed “You’re trembling. Are you ok?” Yes. But probably embarking on a whole new thing. Life in 10 minutes looked totally different.
2. We had discussed ahead of time, everyone attending was surprised, our vows were memorized (I had never said them perfectly until the right moment – to the relief and amazement of the bride). We had decided we would pray. I prayed the prayer of blessing over the microphone on the floor.
3. We had planned our escape from the several imagined people who would give pursuit. It worked flawlessly (even though no one chased). Footnote to that: talk to each other and plan well together.
Mom: It was fun. It was simple. Lot of our friends were there. And the bird got killed by the cat. Grandma Whitmore was looking after Mor-Mor’s bird [Anne’s great-grandmother]. And dad had a kitten the summer he was home. After the afternoon wedding and reception (cake, nuts and punch and tea and coffee), we went back to Willlowcrest [Anne’s Grandma’s home] to visit with family from out of town. And Grandma Whitmore was so upset. I had never seen her so upset. Everyone showed up. No glitches. I had no doubts. I didn’t have any second thoughts. Sure was simpler than weddings now.
Me: What is a fond memory of the last 45 years of marriage?
Dad: There are too many. (We came back to this one). People.
1. Outside our family: Qualified by significant relationships of mutual respect. Because wherever we lived, there was always at least one couple that was a cut above everyone else in every way and the close friendship.
2. Our kids
Mom: My goodness. I think probably the surprise trip to Glacier with Keebaughs before we left Idaho. I think just the experience of being in Idaho was really special. I don’t have unfond memories so it is hard to say the fondest one. Our trip to Vietnam. There have been lots of good ones.
Me: What is your secret for making your marriage last?
Dad: Goes back to flexible, adaptable and talking together. A LOT. A lot is not good enough. Talking together about all of life including working through processing discoveries, working through surprises. Related to those, to read a lot and pray a lot and maintain a forward perspective.
Mom: (chuckles) I don’t think I ever entertained the thought that it wouldn’t last. It was never on my radar that it wouldn’t last. So when I went into it, I went into it for the long haul. Seeing the positive side of things and not taking anything (I do take life seriously) but pessimistically seriously. Always believing that we would get through it and things would get better. Just life in general. Our common faith definitively contributed. Being willing to change. Holding in balance being dependable so we can count on each other (I never had a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn’t be there when I needed him) and being adaptable. Not being stuck in a rut.
Me: What is your favorite thing about the other person?
Dad: Three parts.
First one is my enjoyment, admiration and respect of how she has developed her talents and gifts. Because this is a long story and it did not come easily and it has only been in the last 22 years and to me it has been very very fascinating to behold.
2. Summary word would be her continual support. What was the question again? (that wasn’t one of the 3)
3. Her ability to succinctly communicate wisdom. Because I am an introvert and I look at someone who can express things well and I say, that’s really cool. I have to work at it – in contrast. Again, lots of illustration on that.
4. Probably has to do with flexible.
Mom: I think as groaner-ish as his sense of humor is, his sense of humor.
What was the question now?
His willingness to change.
O yes, we’re so different. But that’s what makes it interesting.
Ain’t that the truth.
I’m grateful to my parents for sharing and modelling real life love.
By Anne Whitmore