A Fast Forty Years

I can’t gauge this, seeing as I haven’t even been alive for that amount of years, but my Dad said this exact thing to me yesterday, “Forty years has gone by so fast.”

My parents’ 40th wedding anniversary is today. Yes, they’ve been married for that long. Continuously. To each other. I know, strange, right? They must be mutants or some of the kookiest people alive, because it seems so rare for people to actually stay married.

I’m not saying the times when people stayed together because divorce was a no-no, or people just stayed together because that’s what they did, should be brought back, but it’s more about the “throwaway” and “me me me” culture we live in now. Everyone wants instant results and no one wants to put the effort or work into . . . well, anything. For all of our technology, gadgets, quick fixes, and “hiring someone to do anything for us” society, the one area none of this really applies is to human emotions, relationships, and those deeper connections with another person. There is no “Successful Marriage” app for your phone (actually, there probably is, there’s an app for everything) that will make a marriage easy.

Marriage takes work. Effort. Sacrifice. Respect. Forgiveness. Understanding. Compromise. Loyalty. All things that seem to be sorely lacking in our lives today. If it gets too difficult, leave or switch to something else, there’s something better out there, there are endless choices. I mean, you can get 500+ channels on TV, with all those possibilities, I don’t have to stay on just one channel. But all those channels end up being boring or not entertaining enough, and before you know it, you’ve flipped past them all. Sometimes it feels like people do the same with other people. We seem to throw each other away too easily.

So seeing people like my parents celebrating something like a 40th wedding anniversary, inspires me. It makes me realize how incredible it really is and the type of people it takes to maintain, nurture, and continue love, partnership, marriage, and a family. And let me tell you, my parents are pretty incredible people.

They may not be famous, or CEOs of a company, or curing diseases, but they are the kind of people you are thankful to have in your life. The ones people know, always have a kind word to say about,  and with whom they stop to talk. My Dad will have lengthy conversations with people (as in, we’re in the store and all of a sudden he has disappeared, “Where did Dad go?. . .oh wait, there he is, he stopped to talk to someone). Which must be from where I get my blabbering and rambling, because my Dad and I will talk on the phone forever, and multiple days in a row, and never run out of things to say. They are the ones who try to make everyone feel welcomed. Over the years I had many college or international friends come to stay at our house, and most of them left giving my parents hugs and calling them “mom” and “dad.” I have often gotten the remark, “Your parents are so cool.” Not because they dress in latest fashions or are up on the latest trends, but because they are supportive, loving, funny, and all around nice, genuine people who never take themselves too seriously.

They were two kids who found each other, one a bit wild (ahem, or so I’ve heard. Also, apparently from where my sister and brother got that), the woman who grew up with four brothers, learning to be tough and knowing how to take care of herself, and the other, more of a gentle, goofy homebody who has often been called “THE nicest guy” more than once by multiple people (seriously, just ask anyone). She’s 5’3″ (on a good day), he’s 6’4″. They seem to be opposites in most ways, but it all comes together to create a partnership that has lasted through all that life has thrown their way. Plus, it helps they’re both intelligent people who have great senses of humor.

Yes, my Mom frosted her hair. Don’t ask, she doesn’t even know why she did it.

They’ve endured rough times through financial struggles, family illnesses and tensions, mother nature, and extra burdens in life, but not once giving up, on each other or their friends or family. They’ve also celebrated happiness and love through three children, weddings, birthdays, graduations, the birth of their granddaughter, holidays, and everyday life.

Who knew these two crazy kids would be together so long, living through what they have, and starting a family and raising such an amazing, intelligent, fabulous daughter (and those other two). Providing for their family in ways they were not privileged to when they were growing up. Touching people’s lives in ways they never fully understood or even probably realize to this day.

Even growing up I knew how lucky I was, and how grateful I felt for having them as my parents. I’ve always felt fortunate having them in my life, being able to turn to them whenever I needed them, and having the ability to talk with them about anything. I suppose I’ve always gotten strange looks (nothing new there)

Check out my brother’s sweet “Dukes of Hazzard” shirt. (I’m the one with the fat cheeks).

when I say I like hanging out with my parents. We have fun together and it’s about being ourselves. My family and my parents have always been my safe haven, the one place I’ve felt comfortable being myself and never had judgment passed on me. I’m the one who left home and have an interest in a lot of things that they don’t have an interest in. They could have easily seen my leaving as a bad thing, and all my quirks as a barrier in our relationship, but instead they are some of the people with whom I am closest. They listen with an open understanding, and even if they don’t actually understand, they always take an interest and ask questions. Nor have they ever projected anything onto me, expecting or demanding I be or do something I am not.

I never saw or heard my parents fighting when I was a kid, except for who was going to do the dishes. (“I’ll do them, you sit down and relax.” “But you did them last night, I’ll do them this time.”) Now, this isn’t to say they didn’t have real disagreements, they probably did, but not once was it a production in front of us kids. They never yelled at each other or called each other names or slammed doors. (Not really my parents’ style anyway.) One more thing I’m grateful for, they were conscious of their children and how something like that might impact them (I have witnessed first hand in other households some parents have no consideration for this).

My parents like being in the kitchen, whipping up delectable food while aromas tease the senses. They like to drive places, take day trips to the casinos testing their luck on clicking and clanging slot machines or outplaying the dealer at the card table. They have conversations while sitting at home. They laugh together at silly things they do or see. They make simple trips for shopping or to get coffee a special moment by the sense of giving and doing something for the other. My entire life I’ve never seen my Dad leave for or come home from work without giving my Mom a kiss. They have shown that the simple gestures and moments in life are the ones that make the foundation for a forty year (or more) life together.

My parents and I a few years ago.

So congratulations to my amazing parents, and thank you. It’s sometimes difficult to say the things you need or want to say to people, but I’m forever thankful for you both. For all you have done for me and the advice I have received (whether I followed it or not). For every hug and conversation. For every thoughtful gesture and goofy moment. You made, and still make, my world safe, even being 1600 miles away. You make me feel as if I always have a place in this turbulent world. Your love, support, understanding, and words have shaped me and helped me make decisions. You’ve inspired me in ways you may have never known and I look to you as examples for wanting to be a better person and how I can be in my own interactions with people. I haven’t, and probably can’t, do either of you justice in this post (and I’m sorry for that), nor can I fully relay my thanks and gratitude for being who you are and living your lives the way you have, but I love you and feel so privileged to know you, and call you Mama and Daddy.

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15 thoughts on “A Fast Forty Years

  1. What a wonderful post. I have a world of respect for those couples that stay married for 40 or
    50 years. My dad has been married about 70 years to my mom and his new wife who he has only been married to for 41 years. It was sad to see my mom and dad grow apart and both leave for other states. They were married about 29 years. Worst thing of all was that my baby sister was only 13 when the split up and neither one took her with them, leaving her older sister to raise her.

    My mom died 13 years ago at 80, but my dad will be 97 years old later this year. I will never forget when my father visited her in the hospital before he died. My brother who had brought my father from Tennessee to Louisiana, told my mother that he brought someone to see her and she saw my father and reached out to hold his hand. That was a moment I will never forget, since they had been divorced for about 28 years at the time.

    If I had stayed married to my first wife, last year would have been our 40th anniversary, but I don’t miss the slamming doors and all the chaos that went with it.

    Wish you lived closer to your parents, but while you are apart from them in distance. you know they will always be there for you.

    Thanks again for an excellent post that reminds us of how happy a married couple can be if they work together to make a happy home for each other and for their children.

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  2. I truly envy you! You have amazing parents! I can’t even imagine how great that stabilitymut feel as well. 40 years! I hope that when I finally take those vows that I’ll be celebrating my 40th, 50th, etc. My grandparents (who are my model for marriage and my heroes) just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary! They keep me believing in love everlasting. They are still smitten with eachother after all these years. 🙂
    Happy anniversay to your wonderful parents!

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  3. A very lovely and well-written, well-illustrated tribute to your folks. I had forgotten (just for a moment mind you…!) that in August my wife and I will be celebrating the 30 year anniversary of when we first met each other…been married 28 of them. They don’t give you a manual or a textbook on how to stay married…you each have to work at it together…daily! Congrats!

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  4. Very well said!!! It is a great example to follow! Yesterday it was funny Kaitlyn called it their graduation!!! But she was happy to celebrate with them!!!

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  5. Ah! I can’t agree enough with this post! I recently posted a gallery of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They were married for fifty years when he died. It’s great when you find someone that you admire for their talent that is also a good person. Of all the things you’ve posted, I have to say that the commitment to marriage seen in the old days is my favorite piece of nostalgia.

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  6. What a lovely tribute to your parents. Mine have been married for 35 years, and their life together (while not always perfect) taught me that anything worth having is worth working for. Similarly, my grandparents, married for 55 years, also served as a model. Eleven years into my own marriage, I can honestly say that it spending my life with the right man and working to become better people together is one of the greatest joys! After all, I learned from the best… Please forward my congratulations and well wishes to them.

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  7. Your great use of the photos of your mom and dad, at different times in their life, made your article even more special. I am sure the article and the photos made their day as well for the readers who read the article.

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  8. Congrats to them. They have a great legacy and an absolutely fabulous daughter. And being that you are half of each of them, genetically, I must say I love their guts.

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