October 27, 2012
The cold air bit at my face as I watched the plastic kite lift up above the house. It was fall—or spring, I don’t remember exactly—and I was at Gram’s on a “sick day.” I really had been sick at 7:00 in the morning when I asked Mom and Dad if I could stay home. But a cozy day at Grandma’s—eating butter-topped soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and spreading my toast with thick homemade jam—had done my body good. The afternoon spent snuggling under the nap blankie in front of Cable TV—Press Your Luck, I’m sure—and Gram’s love had healed me to the point where I couldn’t resist Grandpa’s offer of flying kites. The sunny, windy day was just too good to waste. “You feelin’ good enough to go outside with Grandpa, Darlin’?” He asked. Yes, yes I was. The weather had cleared and so—just as miraculously—had my cold. The twinkle in Grandpa’s eye told me he was just as excited about an afternoon of “foolin’” as I was, and I couldn’t resist. Gram made sure I put on my coat and shoes, and outside we went to have adventures.
That’s how I always think of Grandma and Grandpa—two halves of the same coin, always balancing each other out, always together. Home and Garden. Nurturing and Exploration. Hugs and Stories. One in the yard, one in the kitchen. Two in their swivel chairs with Scotties on their laps. Grandpa in the driver’s seat, Gram next to him with bottles of water and packages of Neccos. When I go to visit and one of them isn’t home, something feels incomplete. Today as we celebrate their sixty years of marriage, I’m proud to be a part of this family they built, this amazingly interconnected family unit. For if there’s one thing they’ve shown all of us through our part of that sixty years, it is that family is the most enjoyable, the most thoughtful, the most humorous group of people around. Family is fun. Family is always prepared. Family is always full of honor and respect and love.
Just after our wedding ceremony, Grandma was the first person we saw. She hugged Eric in the entrance of the church. “Now I have a grandson,” she said, and kissed him on the cheek. He beamed. Who wouldn’t want to be one of their kids or grandkids? This gig comes with bursting birthday boxes, matching power tools for Christmas, and an open-door (fully loaded pantry) policy. Gram and Grandpa are always there for us, and we know it because they are so consistent with their actions. When Eric and I renewed our vows, it seemed only fitting we’d have the ceremony at their house. No, not just because Grandpa had been making the suggestion that I should get married on the creek (and serve hot dogs!) almost as often as he had been suggesting I join the Highway Patrol. But because when Eric and I drifted apart, it was Grandpa who was honest with us both about what kind of commitment our marriage meant—to family, even in the most difficult of times. Grandma and Grandpa have been every bit the role models, the counselors, the models of faith and perseverance that Eric and I both have needed as we’ve navigated the struggles of our own marriage. Not only have they been there to guide us, but their model of commitment to each other is one of the strongest I know.
I wonder about that hayride, about those two weeks in Colorado, the chances they took to be together and how they could have known they were going to assemble such a stable, close-knit group. Though I don’t think they could’ve known what this—what we—would all be, I think theirs is a story of incredible luck in the coming together of two people exactly suited to balance and inspire greatness in each other. I grew up knowing this story—this legend—of how they met and how they got married the way I knew my Sunday School stories, but it was not until I lived the real struggles of marriage, of raising children, and of navigating adult life that I truly came to appreciate it for the kind of blessing it represents. I have to believe that there was something unspoken—something godly and maybe even unknowable then that brought them together under such unusual and lucky circumstances. We are all so fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the commitment they’ve shown each other and of the way they’ve put love into action for every one of us.
Last year at as we all gathered at Lake Tahoe for Grandpa’s 80th birthday—with Aunt Anne’s mojito moonshine, a gargantuan-sized container of cheese balls and a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle—I was struck by how alike we all are and how much of that we owe to Grandma and Grandpa. We are—every one of us—resourceful. We like a bargain. We’ll strike up a conversation with just about anybody. We love to grow things, and love animals. We want to know the history of our family and the stories of each other’s lives. We remember and retell these stories, reminding each other all the time. Remember the Christmas when, we say, or how about that one time. We tease. We compete. We create. We cook, all of us. We contribute, we plan, and we coordinate. We become the go-to people in our jobs and churches, and we have a reputation for doing things right. Ours is a kind of type-A preparedness that others can’t begin to understand—we plan a mean party and we run a garage sale like nobody’s business.
What have I learned from Grandma and Grandpa in my 33 years? What I have I seen them do and learned from my aunts, uncles and parents because they live it too? I’ve learned to make people feel special, to remember the important details about their lives. I’ve learned to pray, to believe that God directs where we’re headed. I’ve learned to create, to make things for myself and others because there’s pride in hard work and beauty in the homemade. I’ve learned to shop with coupons and purpose, and to return things to Costco if they’re not to my satisfaction because darn it, I expect quality. I’ve learned friendships are for life and that you take care of your friends with love and understanding, too. I’ve learned to open my home to those who are lonely or who need a family close by. I’ve learned that fresh flowers will always brighten someone’s day and that when someone is sick, you take them chicken and noodles. I’ve learned to stock my pantry, to follow a recipe, to give generous gifts. I’ve learned that it matters who I spend time with, what words come out of my mouth, and whether or not my actions back up what I promise. I’ve learned to go exploring, to remember where I came from, to say I love you out loud. I’ve learned to be there, to call often, and to not wait too long in between visits.
Grandma and Grandpa, your marriage this far has been every bit as much a gift to us as it has been, I’m sure, from you to each other. This family you have created is a testament to everything that is wonderful about the two of you, and how that is magnified in your commitment to each other. I love you both so much and I’m so happy to celebrate with you today. Happy Anniversary!