Today was a very special day. September 4th usually is.
But, today, was even more memorable. Today was the celebration of my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. 40 YEARS! It's remarkable and unbelievable to me that they have remained married for this long. Two people that couldn't be more different from each other, and yet two people who are equally amazing in their own right. I am really truly blessed to have come from such a strong example of unconditional love, support and what I believe many relationships lack these days - the power of perseverance.
I've been thinking a lot this week about Endurance and how that applies to life, and to relationships. It's funny to hear my parents talk about their courtship. Country boy meets city girl in 1970-something...there's a spark... and then a long distance relationship ensues through writing letters and occasional visits as she pursues her nursing career and he - his university education. To hear them talk, and laugh, and see the light in their eyes when reminiscing about those early times is really special. Really sweet. It makes me wonder - in this modern age of instant messaging, facebook, texting, and cyber dating, how is it that so many people still seem so disconnected? "Connecting" has become effortless, instantaneous. We are now so accessible to one another. We don't have to wait 2 weeks to send a letter and (hopefully) get a response within the month. Yet - if you look at the divorce rates and the percentage of people still searching for love and the "right" relationship - it's challenged, it's happening much later in life and the whole tradition around the sacrament of marriage seems to be suffering. Why? With all that we have shouldn't it make things better? Easier?
Somehow my parents have managed to stick it out. Year after year. For forty years. Through some very turbulent times, and some magically wonderful times. Through all of it - they've supported each other, forgiven each other, supported their children and never left each other's side. How do they DO that?! It's a special kind of endurance. An endurance that is committed to staying the course. A commitment to seeing things through and honoring how things change. It's remarkable actually because both my parents have changed a lot over the years. Yet, somehow, their relationship has survived. My father looked at his wife this evening and said "Geez - forty years! Does it really feel that long to you??" "No. Not at all!" My mother replied.
At dinner tonight I had a few candid moments with my father. I mentioned my amazement and how much I looked up to them for the shining example they've been for so many people. I mean, my parents have got to be some of the most wonderful folks! Everyone in their neighborhood can vouch for that. They are loved by so many people because they are just there for so many people, always willing to lend a hand, give a pep talk, or help in any way possible to brighten someone's day.
My Dad had this to say - "You know it's the end of the summer and all I wanted to do was go fishing. I never got to go fishing. I just can't leave right now." (he was referring to the recent diagnosis of a serious heart condition with my mom who is waiting for open heart surgery to replace her aorta) I told him that he didn't have to worry. I'm here. I'm close if anything should happen, and for him to go fishing shouldn't be a problem, if that's what he really wants to do. We will call him if anything happens. No problem. Go ahead and enjoy yourself! He looked me square in the eyes and said "It's not about that. And you know it."
"I told your mother I would always be here if she needed me. I will always be there for her. I always have been. And I always will be." And that is what it's about.
Because, you see, when my father says those words - he really means it. To him, it is the most honorable thing to do. He considers it his duty. And that, my friends, is endurance. If you speak to my mother - she'll say much the same thing. To her, no one has ever made her happier than my father. They're both willing to make sacrifices for the other's happiness and well being. They're both concerned with the other's best interests. Sure- they bicker like old people now and again, but at the end of the day, they seem to belong together. At the end of the day they go to sleep beside a person who knows all about them, has seen all of them, and yet still loves them anyway. Endurance. It's a spiritual practice all in itself...
Cheers Mom & Dad - Thank you for the example of what true love is supposed to look like.