Had Mama J. lived she and Papa T. would have marked their 50th wedding anniversary this December. On the way to the cemetery Saturday, Papa T. joked that she would have wanted to have a big celebration for that, and he’s right. She would have, complete with floral arrangements and matching tablecloths. But it’s like I told him, fifty years of marriage is worth celebrating. Their partnership has left me with an example of what marriage is about.
Their union was no more perfect than anyone else’s. I don’t think you can have a “perfect marriage”. It’s just too hard to work through the day to day of raising a family and sharing a home without some bumps along the way, but their marriage was unique in that Papa T. knew at an early age he would go blind as an adult. Mama J. knew that when they got married and agreed to support him when he eventually lost his eyesight. Glaucoma robbed him of his dream to be a veterinarian and of caring for the family farm. He changed his college major to education, figuring he would always be able to earn a living that way, even when he lost his vision. He was right. He had a very successful career as a teacher, administrator and eventually the superintendent of a local school system. Mama J. was right there beside him the whole time, making sure he was sharply dressed, that he didn’t show up for work in one brown shoe and one black shoe and generally took care of little details that could have made him less professional in the workplace as his eyes started to fade. In the last few years, when his eyesight left him, she was still making sure he got what he needed, administering his eye drops on time and reading the newspaper to him each day. Even though she hated sports scores. It wasn’t always easy for her, especially as her health declined, but she did it. In her death, he lost his eyes and ears, and that’s going to be hard on him.
As I pondered this during my run today, it made me think about marriage in general. In the past year, I’ve gone to a few weddings, and at each one I couldn’t help but think to myself that those newlyweds had no idea what lay before them. Marriage truly is a partnership. Help mates get us through life’s ups and downs. There are good times in marriage; the birth of children and grandchildren, great vacations, home purchases and just the fun of having lively family dinners together. But there are so many hard times, too, and it’s those hard times that break or cement a relationship. A successful marriage is sharing in the good times and the bad. It’s helping your mate pick out a casket for his parent, propping them up during grief over a loved one or a lost job. It’s trimming the fingernails of your elderly father in law when your spouse is afraid of hurting him. And it’s holding your mate’s head over the toilet when the flu has taken control and wiping up the mess that comes with that. Surviving those things gives you a connection with your mate that deepens your love for each other as the years pass. Life was not always easy for Mama J. and Papa T.. Besides the glaucoma, they buried two children, two grandchildren and a great grandchild along the way. But they had many good times together, and that will sustain Papa T. in the months ahead. Those memories will prop us up, too. We’ve had several laughs in the past few days about things Mama J. said and did. One day I’ll tell you the grilled cheese story. But for now, I’ll simply ponder the time between the beginning and end of their forty-nine years together and hope to do so well.
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