This summer, on August the 4th to be exact, my parents will celebrate 50 years of marriage. My brother’s family and our family will celebrate with them by doing something that is their favorite: we will go to their favorite lake and spend a week in a cabin together. My brother and I are really quite glad because neither one of us are very good at planning parties. My sister-in-law is probably even gladder because, while she is great at planning parties, would have had to have planned one without a lot of useful help.
Fifty years, to me, is a very impressive number. If you can be married to someone for fifty consecutive years without at least developing some sort of twitch in your body, it’s incredible.
I love my husband more than my very own self and I am totally cool with fifty years with him, but there are some things I am definitely going to have to overlook.
Like the storytelling in Spanish that is SO FAST I have to ask him to repeat it in English and then I have to ask him to repeat it in Spanish again.
Like him estimating he’ll be done in about an hour when he’s facing a three hour job. And then taking five.
Like me explaining that we are taking an Air Canada flight, having him ask me five minutes later what airline we are taking, and then turning to the lady at the airport help desk and asking about the American Airlines flights.
Of course, on the flip side, he will have to put up with all of my little idiosyncrasies for the next forty-one years as well, but I’m sure that none of you are interested in hearing about those, as they are probably too trivial to be concerned about. Or because they are probably too embarrassing for me to tell you about.
But my parents have done it, and it’s an amazing accomplishment. The most amazing part is that they have modeled what it takes to live a successful marriage, and they continue to do so. So much of who I am as a person is because of my parents. And so much of what I now invest into my personal relationships is due to their daily commitment to their marriage and their family. Like:
Fifty years of understanding that marriage isn’t 50/50. That raising a happy family isn’t a mathematical equation. That some days it takes all the efforts one person, and some days it takes the other, and most days it’s both. That the only acceptable number is 100% of yourself, no matter what the other person has to give.
Fifty years of respecting the other, especially when the children are watching. Never giving in to frustration and calling the other out in front of the kids. Never humiliating the person who has committed to walking down this road with you, no matter how bumpy it gets.
Fifty years of parenting together, one parent walking the floor with a fevered baby all night, the other giving morning baking soda baths during chicken pox season.
Ironically, I think I finally understood what it took to be a spouse when I walked away from my first marriage, in which I had failed so spectacularly it was almost a visible explosion. I had been very young when I had married my college sweetheart. But I hadn’t been younger than my own parents had been and thus I figured I would do quite well.
But I hadn’t figured in the fact that I was very selfish, and hadn’t experienced anything in life that would equip me for giving 100% of myself to anyone. So I failed badly, and called my parents while sitting in the midst of all these broken pieces of a marriage that I had mostly smashed all by myself.
They got on two phone extensions and gently picked me up and dusted me off across a million miles and a billion tears. I’m sure they didn’t necessarily agree on everything, because my dad was just desperate to make it better for his girl, and my mom wanted me to look into the mirror and learn something. But somehow they linked their hands underneath me and lifted me back up. They did it in a way that only a pair of people could do who really knew what it meant to be married.
At the time, all I cared about was that they were on the other end of the phone and that I was still alive. But eventually, as I built a new relationship with Gilberto, this model became the foundation of what I now understood about marriage.
Marriage isn’t a compromise. Marriage isn’t just agreeing so you can live in peace. Marriage isn’t about the romance.
Marriage is about building a family. Marriage is about coming together when it counts. Marriage is wading, hand in hand, through the good times, the hard times, the worst times, and never letting go.
And that is something worth celebrating.