Sadly, my husband’s grandfather passed away last week. I didn’t know my grandfather-in-law very well. I had only met him a handful of times, so his memorial service was both a goodbye and a peek inside of who he was. His daughters and grandchildren did a beautiful job of telling his story, adding shape, colour and nuance to their memories of a man who had lived his life well. And on his own terms.
There was luminescent thread that weaved its way through all of the anecdotes: a love story that spanned two continents, a shared passion for dancing, proud ambition, 3 children, 14 grandchildren and (almost) 14 great-grandchildren. A 65-year marriage to a woman he called his ‘Daisy’.
Each story held this love at its centre, like a heartbeat. Not in the star-crossed romance of a Hollywood movie way. What I heard was that among the many accomplishments and successes of a man who’d lived on this earth for 85+ years, what his family most cherished was his love for their mother/grandmother.
I was especially struck by one sentence in particular: ‘If it was important to Mum, it was important to Dad.’ A lovely summation of a quiet, winding path of a life well-loved.
I watched his grieving Daisy closely as these stories were told. I was moved to my own tears by the sight of her grace and vulnerability on such a heartbreaking day. This was her story they were telling. It was her life they were honouring, too. But this isn’t the end of her story. Hers will go on after she makes the painful adjustment to waking up to a world without her partner of 65 years. I truly cannot imagine.
As life would have it, my husband and I celebrated our 14th anniversary two days after his grandfather’s memorial service. These two events were too close together for an overthinking Pisces like me not to loop a metaphorical lasso around them to envision the sweet possibility of another 51 years of loving this man I married.
It’s not hard to imagine. He is extremely easy to love. But I probably don’t need to tell you that the day in, day out practice of sharing a life isn’t always easy. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes he wants the very thing that I really, really don’t want. Sometimes what I want drives him nuts.
Sometimes I want to kiss every inch of his handsome face. And other days, I want to smother him with a pillow in his sleep. As much as my ego rejects the idea, I’m sure that he’d like to give me a high-five to the face from time to time as well.
We’re as prone as any couple to dwell in an ‘I want to be right’ posture. Some days it feels so good to be right. To go after an argument until he sees it my way. Which is a slightly less egomaniacal way of saying he’s wrong. Oh yeah. I can right-fight with the best of ‘em. I do try to stay away from finger-pointing, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to stand up for yourself in a relationship. I’ve learned the hard way that continually shelving what I need to avoid conflict will ultimately cause irreparable damage. Keeping the peace only works when it’s a two-way street.
Anyhoo … here’s my truth. I’d rather not spar in the ring of right-n-wrong with my husband. I’d really rather just find a way for both of us to feel happy, heard and fulfilled. I’d rather bend toward him with love (not the same as compliance) than get into a pi$#ing match about something silly like directions or putting the cap back on the toothpaste tube. While I always want what I want, I see that it’s easy to find a way for him to get what he wants at the same time. For example, let Google maps help us circumvent direction-spats. Let each of us be in possession our own tube of toothpaste. Simple, sweet relief.
As for the hard stuff – and life throws plenty of it our way – it seems to me that we have a choice there as well. We can lean into the pain with the force of our unified partnership or scurry away from it in two disconnected directions. Thankfully, we learned early on that there is much to be gained when both of us put our shoulders to the wheel, to push back as an undivided unit when life forces painful lessons upon us.
I’d like to think that this is an agreement that helped my grandparents-in-law to stay the loving course for so many years. Being two distinct rivers that flow into the same lake. Not to ‘be one’ but rather to fill it with unique but shared determinations to be greater than the sum of each of its parts.
There’s also something to the idea of ‘If it’s important to Mum, it was important to Dad.’ There is a sweet honouring for other that lives in the heart of that adage. It’s possible that pulling it firmly into the loop of our own marriage-manifesto may have our own kids and grandchildren reflecting on lessons learned from how we treated each other 51 anniversaries from now.
This is a ‘whole she-bang, get-down-in-the-weeds-and-work-at-it kind of marriage love’. It’s not always easy. But’s it’s what I’m for.