01 January 2005

Single...With Children: Parents Marriage A Shining Testament To The Power And Endurance Of Love

Single with Children: Parents' marriage high standard

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 07/25/01

My parents recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. I can't comment on the first 14 years, but I can testify that in the 41 years I have had the privilege of being their daughter, and as unbelievable as this sounds, I have never, ever heard them exchange what would begin to qualify as a cross word. Not one.

I've often thought about what it is that gives a marriage such longevity, and not simply a long life but a happy long life. There is a difference.

In other words, a marriage rich in both quality of life AND quantity of years is one of the most incredible things I can imagine.

Though I didn't have the fortune of living in a marriage that will see that kind of mileage, I have been blessed to be a member of a family that contains one. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that at times I'm just a little envious.

My parents were married in July of 1946.

Dad had just returned from fulfilling his military obligation to "Uncle Sam," and Mother was working in the small southern West Virginia town where they both grew up. Certainly their beginnings were humble, and money was more than a little tight.

Their first addition to the family was my older sister, Becky, followed 10 years later by me.

During the course of their marital life there have been a plethora of changes and no shortage of adjustments.

Some of the events they have weathered included numerous moves - my dad's career in the coal industry necessitated frequent relocation - moving my grandmother in when she could no longer take care of herself and helping each other through the deaths of their respective parents. Not necessarily easy, but certainly expected occurrences over the life of any long union.

A few of the things they have faced together have, I am sure, tested them more than I could begin to realize.

They endured the unexpected death of their 23-year-old firstborn daughter, and faced the challenge of taking care of my elderly grandmother and the very panic disorder-ridden teen-ager I became after my sister died. That could not have been easy and yet, on reflection, I never saw the slightest hint of a crack. Not for one second.

Of course, in time my grandmother passed away, and I grew up and married. After a few years I presented them with two much adored grandchildren.

And, when it became apparent that my own marriage was falling apart, they swooped in and gave me the kindest gift anyone facing a daunting future can receive: the courage to face it head on.

I feel blessed that my kids have the exquisite example of my parents' genuinely happy marriage, a very real testament to love, devotion and commitment.

I'm even more thankful for the example it sets for me. It's such a visual reminder that an institution that is sometimes given a bad rap, and has as great a chance for failure as it does success, really can stand for something and is, in spite of the statistics, very dependable.

In this age of self-help and therapy, my parents have managed to maintain this union without the assistance of relationship gurus.

I'm fairly certain that the only thing they know of Mars and Venus is their approximate location in the solar system. Perhaps the real glue that has kept them together is the element that drew them together in the first place and the fact that they have never forgotten what it was.

Sometimes, when I consider the prospect of eventual remarriage, the mere idea scares me to death. I wish marriage came with some kind of dependable guarantee or warranty but, of course, it requires lots of hard work, impeccable intentions and no small measure of faith.

In reality a guarantee would take away the "magic," and it's the "magic" that makes it worthwhile.

I wish I had been able to give my kids the "up close and personal" example of a successful marriage. Even amicable divorces are not without a certain amount of pain. I am, however, grateful that my kids have a day-to-day example of marriage not only of long life but also of life lived well.

I would like to believe that when it comes time to make their own commitments, they will draw upon the example they saw in their grandparents.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Department, P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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