Yesterday at school, we were talking with our students about the importance of things not being easy all the time.
The teacher I work with pointed out that if second grade was always easy, with no mistakes made and no struggles to be had, there wouldn’t be a point to being in second grade. I added to this by saying that the tough times are the times that we learn. I should have also said that those times also make the good times even better. But it was Friday afternoon at the end of a long week.
This lesson applies to more than just second grade and extends well beyond the classrooms where we receive our formal education. Much like learning, though, we often forget that the real work begins after we graduate. The hard stuff continues to teach us new things every day. It all comes down to whether we want to keep learning and working.
I’m incredibly fortunate. I was raised by two people who face each day unafraid to learn and work. And their ongoing example is a template for my own life.
Today is their 50th wedding anniversary.
My parents – Ma and Dad to my sister and me, Mama and Papa to the grandkids – are real people. There’s no sugarcoating with them. They aren’t harsh or cruel by any stretch of the imagination. But they also don’t possess the veneer of carefully manicured bullshit that gets passed off as real life on social media. It’s one of the many reasons I love them so much.
I was trying to pick out an anniversary card for them the other day, and it was a chore. A vast majority of them drip with syrupy sentiment that doesn’t reflect the loving couple I know or the half century of marriage that they’ve shared. I finally settled on one that kinda sorta worked, but still … meh. I guess that’s why I’m writing this. The stuff I’m feeling this morning doesn’t fit in a card.
But if it had to, here’s what the card would say this:
Fifty years of marriage don’t come easy. But the two of you make the hard times look worthwhile.
And maybe there’s be a picture of two little otters holding hands while sitting on a park bench. Or a cow and a bull rubbing noses, and there are some birds sitting on their backs. Or a couple of Baby Yodas hugging while the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” Something like that.
The past 18,250 days of Ma and Dad’s marriage have presented more than their fare share of difficulties.
Being a farming couple in the early days of the dairy industry’s decline while raising two kids.
A heart attack.
Caring for aging parents.
Squeezing $1.50 worth of living out of $1.
Allowing their kids to grow up on their own terms and being there to support them emotionally when things didn’t work out.
But rather than being soured by all this (and more) the past 600 months of marriage were made all the sweeter because of Ma and Dad’s resilience and their deep and abiding love for one another. That love has stood up to the onslaught of health problems and financial woes and stubborn teenagers, spinning exquisite gold from the driest of straw.
Because of this, holiday gatherings are celebratory occasions, rather than maudlin affairs. Warm days spent driving the back roads of Vermont are far more special than any trip to Europe. And each moment together is made more precious than the one before.
It’s a heck of a thing to behold. And as a living, breathing result of that sort of love, it makes me feel pretty special. And to look at my own kids and know that they are part of that legacy … well, it’s tough to come up with words for that.
Ma and Dad, happy 50th anniversary. I’m so grateful for all you’ve shown me about love, marriage, and growing up. And I love you both so much.