68 years together

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By Ken Begley

I love talking with people in their 80s and 90s about life and how to live it. When you find someone that has that much experience, then you better take the opportunity to seek them out. I do. Their answers to my questions sometimes surprise me, never bore me, and always inspire me.

The other day I was fortunate enough to talk for an hour to a beautiful 87-year-old great grandmother. She and her husband are celebrating 68 years of marriage this year.

My gosh, think about it!

They married as teenagers in 1942. Think of all the history that has happened during that time. How does someone do that?

When she got on the phone, her voice had that so friendly, contented, laughing, happy feel to it. You know the kind, when you’re lucky to hear it.

Anyway, I had a lot of questions about how you keep a marriage going so long.

This couple married so young that some of their friends said they didn’t think the marriage would last. Funny when you think about it now.

She said her husband was always an easy-going man, who was generous and kind-hearted. They rarely had arguments. She ended many times by saying “God has been good to me.”

But how did they do it?

We talked a lot, but there were certain things that seemed critical to her.

One was that they were always very careful with money.

It seemed to her that many people want to get married and immediately have everything their parents took a lifetime to acquire. This couple were tenant farmers for about 18 years. They didn’t build the house they lived in until 1974, even though her husband later spent 30 years working at GE. She said that not wanting too much and learning to do without would bring you together, not pull you apart. It takes a lot of pressure off of your marriage when you don’t have money troubles.

She wondered if having so many young wives and mothers in the work force was a good thing despite, the material possessions that it brought. She wasn’t looking down on anyone, but she thought that there was too much temptation out in the world, and it broke down some marriages.

We talked more about this, and I think the conclusion we came to was that marriages and life in general are stressful at times. You might have a fight with your spouse and come to work where you meet someone else’s spouse. They might be kind and understanding to your problems and make no demands on you.

Of course you’re not married to them at this time. Then things happen that might destroy a marriage forever. Yet everyone has problems, and it’s a cruel joke in the end to find this out only when your marriage is gone.

She said that she did not know anyone that was divorced until she was in her teens during her childhood.

It also seemed to her that families had too many activities going on these days, which frequently left parents not at home and kids all over the place. She worried about families today not having real quality time together and being a real family.

I asked her if she had some standard advice she might give someone getting married or married today. She said:

1. Never go to bed mad.

2. Always be ready to concede when you’re wrong.

3. Hang in there. You’re going to have some rough spots.

The one thing that was consistent through the hour was thankfulness to God. She was one proud mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. But the biggest place in her heart was for her husband, and for that she was most grateful.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. What did the husband have to say?

Well, you see, he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, the long goodbye. But you know what? He’s still that wonderful man to her that she loved and married so many years ago, and she will tell you long and often how God has blessed her life.

I end with her favorite Bible verse, which is Psalm 46:1:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Thank you for talking to me, Mrs. M.