What is the secret to a successful marriage?
What keeps people together for 30, 40, 60 years?
Do you think I know the answer?
Well I don’t. I’ve only been married for 4 years.
My parents were married for almost 10 before they divorced. I do have an aunt and uncle that have been together almost 40 years. Then my grandparents. They were married for, I believe, 60 years when my pappy died.
So, I figured I would ask the woman in the family who had been married the longest how she did it.
How did she do it? She relied on her cast iron skillet.
Yes, a cast iron skillet. I asked her what she meant and she told me the story of when she almost killed pap. (No, she didn’t kill him, but now…about 40 years later, it’s a hilarious story) No, I’m not telling you the story of grams and her skillet. But lets just say after the skillet incident, pap wasn’t the same after. In a good way. That was the day grams put her foot down.
Like any other couples grams and pappy had their ups and downs. A lot of downs from what I understand. By time I came around there weren’t many downs. As I got older though, pap started getting sick. (Years of smoking and drinking finally catching up to him) Their home had to become smoke free, no more drinking for pap and eventually he only walked from his bed to his chair in the kitchen. (After pap died the chair stood empty at his spot. Nobody would sit in it. Except mom, I’m pretty sure mom sat in his chair.)
I’ve only seen my grams cry maybe 5 times in my life. Yeah, 5 times. The first was when my Uncle Lee (her youngest son) died. I was 14 then, he was in his mid-late 30’s. (Another post for another time. Lets just say it wasn’t a natural death) That was a rough time for all of us and 13 years later it’s still a wound that is gaping wide. It’s one of those things I don’t think anyone in the family will get over. The second time was a few years after that when I graduated from high school. She was so darn proud. I’ll come back to the third time. (I promise that time is important to this post), the fourth was when I got married and the most recent was when I had my boys 4 years ago. Those are the only times I’ve seen her cry. (I’m sure she has more than that, the woman isn’t made of ice) She is a strong woman. Old, but strong.
So the third time. This is a time that is burned into my memory forever. That time was something that just broke my heart and actually made me cry more than what I was.
You see, my grandfather had been sick for a long time. He was in and out of hospitals for years. He couldn’t really walk, was on oxygen and just a sick old man. We all knew his time was coming and as much as we “prepared” for it, we weren’t ready. Nobody was ready to say bye. Well, as death is, we didn’t have a choice. We had to say bye. Pap was released from the hospital and pretty much sent home as CMO. Within a week, he was gone. Before the funeral director picked him up the family gathered at his and grams place to say farewells. More private than the funeral. We shared a few stories, we cried and we consoled grandma.
Then the time came for pap to be taken to the funeral home. We all cleared out of the house and let the men get to work loading pap up. It was hard. I was older, I understood what was going on and it sucked. Grams, the woman who was so strong, finally let it all go. I’d never seen her so devastated before. She lost the man she loved for so long. As the funeral guys wheeled the stretcher out of the house grandma just lost it. She ran after pap, begging them not to take him away from her. Begging pap to come back.
It was heartbreaking to see. Also, somewhat inspiring. I couldn’t help but think, does that kind of love even exist anymore?
Despite all the problems that grams and pappy had throughout their marriage; the tragedy they endured, the happiness, the disappointments, they managed to work through them and stay together. I’d asked grams if she ever thought about leaving and starting over, she did at times, but didn’t. When I asked her why, her answer was simple.
She loved pap. She wanted to be with him. So, they pushed through issues and came out happy.
Is it that simple? Is love enough to keep a marriage going? Is that all you need? Just love?
While my marriage is just a baby compared to my grandparents, I hope the man and I are together until the day one of us is hauled off when we’re old and broken. Each time I think it’s just too stressful, the kids, working, the house…I just think about my grandma having 9 kids, a smaller house than what we have and my pap being a truck driver. (Meaning not home that often.) Then I think about how happy they were when we would all get together. How much I loved hearing them bicker in the kitchen. Pap calling grams babe (I often wondered if he remembered grandmas first name) and her calling him Jack. (His name was John Patrick…I have no idea where Jack came from.)
My pap has been gone for some time now, 6 or 7 years, and grams still has pictures of him up. His clothes are still in the closet and she doesn’t sleep on his side of the bed. But his chair is gone and there is a new table. It’s odd going over and not seeing his chair in that corner and him not sitting in it
I want that love. I want that companionship. And I believe I have it. The man and I are a lot like my grams and pap in many ways. Not all, but a lot. Hopefully we have that special something they did. That special something that kept them together and happy. At least happy once the grandkids started coming into the world.
One thing that does still make me sad, pap never saw me married or my boys. He met Greg early in our relationship, and liked him. He told me a few times to hang on to him. And I did. I think I’ll keep paps advice and just hang on to him.