August 20, 1960

Fifty years ago today, my parents walked down the aisle at Highland Park United Methodist Church.  My mom on the arm of her father, who passed away a short time later, my dad dapper in his stylish 60’s garb.  Aren’t they a cute couple?

As wonderful as they look on the outside, what’s on the inside far exceeds their exterior winsomeness. Together they have woven a tapestry that displays years of love, generosity, love, commitment, love, determination, love, laughter and lots of love.

As with most woven works of art, the masterpiece that faces out for the world to see is supported by a reverse side full of haphazard, mingled and sometimes knotted thread- an indication that life isn’t as easy as it might look. The message? Toil through the trials and don’t worry about what it looks like on the other side. Keep your head in the game, faithfully put one foot in front of the other, and anchor your eyes on the the artist’s hand behind it all.

I didn’t ask them, but I can tell you that a few secrets propelled them through their 50 years together.

First, these two have never (as long as I’ve known them) wavered in their commitment to each other. If they argued, they did so privately. If they disagreed, they respectfully addressed it calmly. I guess that’s the key word … respect.  Neither tries to step in and do the other’s job. Each is content to let the other shine.

Trust is another cornerstone upon which their marriage is founded. I guess honesty is hanging on the tail of that particular trait …  How could you ever trust someone who isn’t honest?

They love each other. Genuinely. The kind of love that is centered on and compelled by the other person. Never selfish, consistently selfless.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about … selflessness.

At this point, my very dry-humored dad would throw in some sarcastic remark on how my mom’s passion kept their marriage sizzling.  She, of course, would instantly blush and nervously utter an “ooohh, Don.” Then try to quickly change the subject.

This is the lady who still spells words that she deems inappropriate, who avoided sharing birds & bees info with her daughters (I’m not sure I’m falling too far from that tree – Mary Flo Ridley might need to make a house call!), who puts up with a husband that thoroughly enjoys teasing her about intimacies.

One year for Christmas, my siblings and I headed over to our friend’s t-shirt shop with two pairs of red long-johns in hand. Our parents were planning a ski trip with friends and we thought they’d like new pairs of thermals. We decided to personalize them in case luggage got mixed. So, on Dad’s pair we imprinted the phrase, “I Only Sleep With the Best”. Mom’s pair proudly displayed, “The Best”. To this day, I can see the surprise, embarrassment, then enjoyment as she opened and read her gift … that coupled with my dad’s pure contentment as he relished the words. As a teen, reaching beyond the potential awkwardness of the double entendre, I sunk my teeth into their total faithfulness to each other (plus plain old fun).

The joke didn’t die. Several years later, as Mom helped out a little around Dad’s office, I overheard him talking on the phone, “Did I tell you I was sleeping with my secretary?’ … pause … “Sue’s up here helping out.” ha, ha, ha, ha.

Oh, yeah.  That’s another thing. She laughs at his jokes. Even when she’s heard the same knee slapper over a dozen times. (Dad, your jokes are just as funny the 10th time!)

So a little sizzle, lots of laugher and a big fat dose of selfless love … maybe those hold a few of the secrets to 50 years of marriage.

Don & SuSu … my heroes in so many ways.

Thanks for letting me share. Our family is far from perfect – which makes it all the better…

and thanks for walking the road with me.

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