On October 6, 2014, my grandparents, Oscar and Nola, celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. In a time when divorce continues to be on the rise, I think it is important to stop and honor the legacies of long-lasting marriages we are surrounded by in the Midwest. I know there are long marriages everywhere. But it seems farm and rural values, far from Hollywood, are rooted in committed marriages, far more than marriages we read about in headlines. My husband and I have just been married for eight years this month. While we have learned much together, we aren’t experts. We learn from those examples around us.
There is a motivational phrase that you are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. If it’s true, I want to make sure Nathan and I are learning to grow in our marriage from the people we spend the most time with. With that in mind, I called my grandparents on their anniversary and specifically asked for marriage insight and advice and said I would be blogging about the marriage example and legacy my grandparents have set for us.
My grandma gave me the best insight she has ever shared about marriage with me.
“You marry someone you have a lot to share with. I married a neighbor. We just fit together.”
I looked up at Nathan in our kitchen, knowing I definitely married a man I have a lot to share with and we definitely fit together.
Grandma Nola and Grandpa Sonny (his nickname) grew up down the same gravel roads, years a part in age, but in the same country school with their parents as longtime friends. Not until after World War II, when my grandma was in college at North Dakota State University and my grandpa enrolled there also did they start dating.
I didn’t learn some of the details of their courtship until this year when our son, Hunter did a family history project for his U.S History class. November 13, 1950 was their engagement day. Grandpa detailed it for Hunter. He gave Grandma his fraternity pin since no one could afford rings then.
My grandparents haven’t lived a lavish life but they are richly blessed. They live in the farmhouse my grandpa was born in, one his dad built. My grandpa was raised in it with his two sisters and parents. Since the mid-1950’s, my grandparents have lived there, raising five kids plus boarding plenty of hired men.
Today they have ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and while I know they do not think their humble life should be given too much attention, I am in awe of it.
Great-Grandma Nola holding her fourth great-grandchild, my niece Nola.
When I told my grandma on the phone last week how rare their marriage and example is, she said, “Well, we are lucky to be together for so long.”
Anyone who has been married knows it’s not just luck. It’s commitment. It’s loyalty. It’s service to one another. It’s loving your spouse and God more than you love yourself.
My grandparents have given more of themselves to their faith in God, to each other and to our family than they have ever given to themselves. They expect nothing in return. It is a gift to our family and to young married couples like Nathan and I.
And Grandma also said to me laughing on the phone, “You also have to a sense of humor together to be married this long.”
Sometimes we need to laugh it off and find in humor in moments rather than take a bump in a road or taking each other too seriously. Both Nathan and I have learned this through our marriage and clearly my grandparents know it well.
When I am 84 years old, like my grandma had just turned when this picture was taken, I hope and pray I am laughing and cooking in my daughter’s kitchen, just down the road from my farmhouse, with four generations of my family alongside me, chaotically making lefse (GriggsDakota recipe here) together. It was a happy moment I will never forget and I love the joy on my grandma’s face.
Long marriages take commitment but long marriages bring joy.
I hope that not far from me in our family filled, lefse making kitchen someday will be my husband, just like my grandpa is always nearby my grandma. When I’m 84 years old, my husband Nathan will be 87 years old and we will have married for 57 years. I love looking ahead to think of it.
What a journey. What a rich life to live alongside your partner, your friend, the one you “fit together” with as Grandma Nola said about my Grandpa Sonny.
I know we can’t predict the future but I know I have examples around me we can learn from and make sure that if our health in God’s big plan allows us the opportunity for long lives, I know we can have the same humble, loving marriage that my grandparents, parents and in-laws all have.
Long marriages rarely make headlines. But I grateful to witness and learn from long marriages that are lived out by humble, loving people, rooted in commitment and a deep faith in each other and God. Thank you Grandma Nola and Grandpa Sonny. We love you.