Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Secrets of a Long and Happy Marriage

(Note: This blog was actually done 10/2/06, and brought over here from another blog. I wanted it to be a part of this one - and they had a lovely anniversary, and are still married more than a month later)

In five days, my parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I find this an exceptionally remarkable milestone, all the moreso because to this day I find it hard to believe they ever even dated. Not because they're "the parents" (well, not solely because of that), but because it's entirely possible that two more dissimilar characters have never dated in all of recorded history.

My mother came from a reasonably well-to-do family on the "nice side" of Des Moines, IA. Her father was a successful doctor, her mother the prototypical doctor's wife, aka the perfect hostess and mate. Mom was an intellectual, the daughter of the single brightest mind I have ever known personally. Mom's careers have ranged from a librarian to executive secretary for firms as large as Leo Burnett and Marsh & McLennon. She's as familiar with Spongebob as she is with Springsteen as she is with Shakespeare (thanks primarily to her grandchildren, my younger brother, and myself, respectively). Oh, and she's completely and utterly cooking-impaired. The reason I included that tidbit will be made apparent later in this blog.

My father, on the other hand, comes from Chicago, raised by a very frugal and hardworking couple (his aunt and uncle). His father died when my father was 18 months old, and his mother couldn't afford to raise my father and his sister, so their aunt and uncle did. Dad struggled to get out of high school, went right into the army, served in Korea as a corporal (radio operator in the Signal Corps), and has war stories...hundreds of war stories.. Dad was (and is, for that matter), a salesman. He's what used to be referred to as a people person. He's also the hardest working person I've ever seen, but he is a product of his environment. If I were to tell him that Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist, a sculptor, an inventor, an advisor to royalty, and a writer, he'd be just as likely to answer "Man couldn't hold down a job."

Mom's version of the perfect vacation day is reading by the pool. Dad's is talking to the hotel engineer about how well the filter in the pool works.

In the old days (read: when my brother and I still lived at home), he'd yell, she'd smile and nod, he'd yell some more, she'd smile and nod, ad infinitum. In the 30ish years since then, they've both sort of moved towards the center. He rarely yells now, and she in fact sometimes does. Neither of them confesses to any idea at all how they've lasted this long, but I have a theory.

I mentioned earlier that my mother can't cook. This, by the way, is not a secret to her. She doesn't like her cooking any more than I do. You know the old joke about what the jewish wife makes for dinner (reservations)? My mother's picture in on the original printing of that joke. My father, on the other hand, actually likes it. Not like a devoted husband tolerating it for his wife's sake, but asking her to cook. My mother and I would BOTH be complaining about what we were having for dinner (while she made it) more times than I can count when I lived there. But dad, bless his heart, loved it.

Which brings me to my theory: The first few years they were married, it was the whole 'opposite attracts' thing.... then it was the kids....not many people they knew divorced who had kids...of course, it could be that both were afraid they'd wind up with custody... and finally, after my brother and I moved out, they reached the key component to marital bliss:...::::::drumroll::::::: they figured out the perfect compromise to food. Now they split going out to eat and cooking in. Going out let's mom eat food she actually likes, and dad gets to talk to the waiter, manager, busboy, and customers... When they stay in, mom has to cook, but at least afterwards she can read a book or watch TV, and dad gets to eat food HE likes.

Happy anniversary mom and dad.