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What’s Your Advice?

            “This is our 50th anniversary picture,” I told Tour Guide who held Husband’s camera.

“Really?” the young man said.  “50 years? Move to the left a little and I have a question after pictures.”

            At the beginning of 2019, I declared the year an anniversary celebration, but this day, August 3, was our wedding date. Husband and I stood on a mountain road in Montenegro overlooking the Adriatic Sea, thousands of miles from the church in Tennessee where we married. 

            Tour Guide handed Husband the camera and said, “I got several pictures. I can’t believe you’ve been married 50 years.  I want to ask my girlfriend to marry me.  What’s your advice?” 

            Husband and I responded simultaneously.  He said, “Compromise.”  I said, “Commitment.”  Husband added, “Pick your battles,” and I said, “Commit forever.”  A friend travelling with us chimed in, “You’ll both make mistakes. Just don’t make a big deal out of them.” 

            “Yes. Overlook. That’s my second word of advice,” I said.  Tour Guide walked with me, talked about his girlfriend, and said he wanted an old-fashioned, traditional family life.  He asked that I repeat our advice. Compromise. Commitment. Overlook.  Husband’s and my responses were spontaneous, and since that day I’ve thought of those words.   

Compromise.  Our home thermostat is set at 71 degrees.  Husband wears long pants and a lightweight fleece.  I wear shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt.  When Husband isn’t home for a few days, the thermostat is 68 on winter days, 70 on hot days, and down to 65 on cold nights. Husband moves the setting up when I’m out of town and sheds his fleece.  Some compromises are daily; some are once a lifetime.

            Commitment. I said, “I, Susan, take you, Allen, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.  This is my solemn vow.”  I pledged to be with Husband no matter what happens. A minister told a bride and groom at the end of their wedding ceremony, “You made promises to each other while God and your family and friends listened.  Now, keep them!”  Our trials haven’t been major, but we’ve endured stressful days, weeks, years and knowing that Husband and I value our vows has eased those times.  A promise is a promise. 

Overlook.  Thankfully, Husband overlooks mistakes.  Like the time our car insurance bill was sky high.  Both our children were teen-agers and, assuming the extremely high charge was for Son, I fumed and ranted.  Husband calmly pointed out that the children’s billings were the same and my insurance had increased.  He let me conclude that three recent speeding tickets had made me an insurance risk.  Mistakes happen – sometimes based on poor judgment.

            Husband and I agree that compromise, commitment, and overlooking have stood us well in our marriage.  But relationships are based on one word.  At the end of the tour, I said to Tour Guide, “You know a marriage is about love and love shows itself in many ways. Just love her.” ####

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The Real Story of Mr. Lizard

imgresEvery August I drag out Husband’s and my wedding pictures when we celebrate our anniversary and share them with anyone who will look. And every year someone, now one of our Grands, asks, “What’s he doing?” The picture shows a man, dressed in a white jacket and black pants, bent over and reaching for something under a church pew.

August 3, 1969. Because Byrdstown First Christian Church wasn’t air-conditioned, the windows were raised, hopefully, to allow a breeze. Large fans had circulated air before the 4:30 p.m. ceremony, but were turned off when the wedding music began.

I stood downstairs, directly under the sanctuary, with Dad. The bridesmaids had walked up the steps and down the aisle. Dad kissed my cheek and assured me that I would always be his little girl and he was happy that I was marrying the man I loved, and then, using his white handkerchief, he blotted tears and sweat from my face. Dad and I took deep breaths and waited for silence. When the organ music stopped it was our cue that the rest of the wedding party was in place and we should walk up the steps.

The music stopped and Dad and I heard screams and stomping. Where the guests leaving the church?

Dad left me standing at the bottom of the steps and ran upstairs. Some women stood on pews and many guests stood in the aisle. Two groomsmen, bent from the waist, stretched their arms under pews. T. D. raised his hand. He held a small blue-tailed lizard between his thumb and fingers. The guests applauded. The lizard was taken outside and left near a huge oak tree.   And when the organist hit the first note of the wedding march, Dad walked me down the aisle to Husband’s side.

It was a beautiful wedding. Bridesmaids wore yellow dresses and carried green Shasta mums. Husband’s little sisters were junior bridesmaid and flower girl. Groomsmen wore white jackets and black bowties. Ferns, candles, sprays of flowers adorned the church. And what is remembered most about our wedding? Mr. Lizard.

Most people guessed he crawled inside thru an open window. Not unusual, especially on a hot day. And that’s exactly what I assumed until a few months ago. During a family gathering, I sat with Husband’s cousins around Aunt Bill’s dining room table.

“You know, I need to tell you something,” cousin John said. “Remember that lizard at your wedding?” A few heads nodded. Some people laughed, remembering the commotion.

John took a deep breath. “Well, all these years, I’ve felt guilty. You know everyone thought that lizard came in through a window? It didn’t. Dad did it.”

“He what?” I exclaimed.

“Dad found it outside on the church porch and stuck it in his suit coat pocket. He took it out and let it go right where we were sitting. No one knew except me. Not even Momma. And all these years, I’ve felt bad about it. I’m really sorry.”

I was surprised and immediately accepted John’s apology. It never occurred to me that anyone, not even an uncle who liked to play jokes, was responsible for Mr. Lizard. John’s parents are both deceased, but John apologized profusely for his dad. “He shouldn’t have done it.”

Maybe not. But it’s a good story, and now I can tell the real story about Mr. Lizard. A much better story than the one I’ve told for 46 years.

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A Clear Blue Sky October Day

search-1When I drove past the Putnam County Courthouse yesterday, I paused to remember an event that took place there on October 28, 1938. The day my parents married. I don’t have a single picture of them on their wedding day. Just pictures in my mind.

Mom was young, only 19. Dad was 26. Seems quite a gap in ages. But I’m sure Mom was mature for her age; she was the oldest of three sisters and had been forced to take the responsibility of her family’s daily home life when her mother became ill. Dad had completed three years of college and taught in the Pickett County schools and worked with his grandfather on the family farm.

One summer Sunday afternoon after Mom graduated from high school, she and Dad were among the many young people who gathered for a weekly pick-up baseball game in a farm field. After the game, Dad offered Mom a ride home and that was the first time they were in a car together. Mom’s sister told me that after that Sunday afternoon, Dad was always around their house.

With both their parents’ blessings, Dad and Mom travelled alone from their homes in Byrdstown to Cookeville on that October day in 1938. Mom worn a plum colored, knee-length satin dress that she’d made. When they arrived at the courthouse, they had all the paperwork in order and a judge agreed to marry them. All they needed was a witness.

It was suggested that someone from a store could be a witness. While Mom waited in the judge’s office, Dad walked across the street to Terry Brother’s Department Store (now the Lighthouse.) As soon as he walked in the store a sales clerk asked if he needed someone to ‘stand up with him and his bride.’ So their only witness was a woman who had apparently witnessed many other weddings.

Mom and Dad took a weekend honeymoon trip to the Smokey Mountain National Park. As they drove through Lenoir City late that Friday afternoon, they heard music, a high school band playing. Dad took advantage of the situation and told his new bride, “Listen, the band is playing just for us.” That’s the only event of the honeymoon that Mom shared with her younger sisters.

I wish I’d known my parents on their wedding day and during their early years of marriage. By the time I came along, they’d been married for almost nine years and they had my brother, five years older than me. Dad had served time in the army during World War II. While he was away, Mom divided her time living with her parents and her mother-in-law.

The best glimpse I have of my parents as a young couple is a letter Dad wrote to Mom on March 20, 1946, from Karlsruhe, Germany, where he was stationed as a solider. The first lines are, “This is the letter I’ve dreamed of writing. I’m on my way home.” And the last lines read, “Darling, I do love you. Right now I’m just so darned happy.”

I can imagine that on a clear blue sky fall day in 1938 inside the Putnam County Courthouse, a beautiful bride and a handsome groom were both just so darned happy.

 

Aunt Anne’s Recipes

imagesAunt Anne would be proud – at least, I think she would.  Husband and I are celebrating our anniversary this week and I’ve tried to follow her advice.  When we married, Aunt Anne gave me a card file box filled with 3 x 5 cards.  On the first card, she wrote “Recipes – Family Favorites and Other Things.”  There wasn’t one single recipe for food.  “Someone who likes to cook will have to fill out all those blank cards,” she told me.  Aunt Anne, really my great aunt, shared other things.

How to live on a budget – Have it printed on the rug.

How to avoid in-law trouble – Stay away from them.  But remember that your mother-in-law and father-in-law spent a whole lot of time and money to produce that man and they are handing over the finished product to you —- for free!  Be kind to them.  In twenty-some short years you might be a mother-in-law.  (It was 27 years.)

Aunt Anne used two cards, front and back, to write about Money and Marriage.  Let’s face it girls, it’s still a man’s world!  (This year was 1969.)  Oh, we get jobs and sometimes make more than the men.  We vote.  We stick our little pinkies in the world affairs, but we still rock the cradle.  In the biological process of filling that cradle, we’re just as old fashioned as Grandma.  For a time, we are dependent.  So it might be a good idea to know how Grandma managed money long before the female executive with the fat salary came along.

Grandma raised chickens, sold cream, taught music, sewed, and resorted to trickery.  She padded the household accounts, filled his wine cup, then raided his pockets, and she had the vapors.  Now there was a malady worth money!

Grandma swooned, looked fragile and clung to Grandpa’s big strong hand.  All the while sending out messages with her fluttering eyelids that penetrated the depth of his protective instinct.  Grandma just wasn’t able to make that kettle of soap nor do the week’s wash so Grandpa hired it done.

This was not the devious trick that it sounds.  Grandpa felt ten feet tall, with a large chest expansion and everybody was happy.  Some variation of this theme has been used thru the ages.  Applied with discretion, it will rate a washer and dryer to this day.

Aunt Anne might not have liked to spend time in the kitchen, but she knew the importance of putting food on the table.  Tis’ said, she wrote, that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  There are times it seems like the long way around.

And she gave me a recipe entitled How to Hold Your Man.  Tie Him!  Tie him with a mixture of kindness, consideration, honesty, truthfulness.  Leaven with common sense.  Spice with a pinch of temper and a good argument now and then.  Frost with lots of hugs and kisses.

So here I am, 44 years later, still happily married to Husband and relishing Aunt Anne’s recipes.  There’s one bit of advice that’s as difficult to master as it was as a newlywed.  She stated it simple and straightforward.  How to avoid a fuss with your husband – Shut your mouth.

A Love Story

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They were 19 and in love and wanted to marry.  Doris planned to tell her dad while she cut his hair, but the scissors slipped and nipped his ear.  It bled.  She couldn’t say, “Hugh and I are getting married!” while her father wiped blood off his neck.

The year was 1943.  A time when couples were often married by an elected official.  A few days later, Doris told her father and mother about her wedding plans.  They gave their blessings, and her sister made her a new dress.

Doris and Hugh had known each other all their lives and started dating during their last year of high school.  She worked in a local restaurant and Hugh stopped by every day to see her.  After high school graduation, she rode the bus to Nashville with a cousin to be trained for a factory job.  A job left vacant by men who were fighting a war.  After three days of training, Doris said, “I’m going home.  I want to be where Hugh is.”

They dated for fifteen months and on March 13, 1943, Doris and Hugh travelled from their homes in Byrdstown, Tennessee, to Rossville, Georgia where Judge A. L. Ellis performed their wedding ceremony in his office.  Doris and Hugh lived with his parents for six weeks – long enough for him to learn that he was denied enlistment in the Armed Forces because he had a perforated eardrum.

Hugh found work in Akron, Ohio, at the Goodyear Rubber Plant and lived with an uncle until he found housing for himself and his bride.  As she rode the bus from Tennessee to Ohio she imagined their new home.  A white cottage with a white picket fence.   Hugh took her, by city bus, to their first home – a one bedroom, small upstairs apartment.  It didn’t matter.  Doris was happy to keep house and cook for her husband.

For the next seventy years, Aunt Doris kept house and cooked for Uncle Hugh.  They lived in Ohio for sixteen years and then bought a farm back home, in Tennessee, where they moved with their only child, a son, fifteen years old.  Hugh became a dairy farmer, and she worked in retail businesses.  And she was well known for her chocolate pies and dried apple fried pies.

Along the way, family and friends and laughter filled their home.  They hosted hamburger cookouts, card parties, Christmas dinners, spaghetti suppers, church meetings.  Their family grew.  Two grandsons, three great-grandchildren.  All loved to visit their Pa and Granny’s house – a home filled with acceptance and love and hugs.

When they reached retirement age, life barely slowed down.  He hit the golf course and neither missed a trip.  Together they followed their favorite sports teams and politicians.  And they kissed good-bye when either left the house – even for a few hours.

Last month, Aunt Doris and Uncle Hugh were honored at a anniversary reception.  Two weeks later, Uncle Hugh slid onto the floor and his heart stopped.  Two weeks after that, Aunt Doris suffered a major stroke and passed away.  Both at home.  Both living their normal daily lives just hours before.

One of their grandsons wrote the following:  If you are going to write the Great American Love Story from beginning to end, this is how it ends.  A celebration of their 70th wedding anniversary with most of their dear friends, Pa heads out to get the permanent house ready, and then Granny comes home.

They were 89 and in love.

 

 

How to Stay Married for 50 Years

imagesGo into marriage with the thought, ‘This is forever.’  Take each day one day at a time and never go to sleep mad.  The days you don’t like each other stop and remember why you fell in love.  Did you read these words of advice from married couples in this newspaper’s supplement on Valentine’s Day?  Golden Anniversary – a celebration of local couples who have been married 50+ years.  Eighty- three couples married between 50 and 75 years and not a single one stated, “Our life together has been blissful.  We never had problems  – only happiness and each day filled with loving actions and thoughts.”  No, these couples shared real life stories.

A couple married 67 years stated, “We were too stubborn to give up.”  One couple compared marriage to a birthday cake.  “To enjoy it you need some cake (everyday living) and a little frosting (romance and passion.)  Too much cake without frosting is boring.  Too much frosting by itself will make you sick.  Find your perfect balance.”

I studied the couples’ stories and words of advice to create a Top Ten List  – How to Stay Married for 50 Years.

10. Threaten that whomever leaves has to take the kids.

9.  Don’t get mad at the same time.

8. Try hard to get along with both sides of the family.

7. Treat your man like a king and treat your woman like a queen.

6. Always keep God in your life.  Pray for your mate.

5. Be willing to put your wants (and sometimes needs) second.  Treat your mate as your best friend.  Be kind and considerate to each other.

4. Play childishly with each other frequently.  Have fun.

3. Learn to say you’re sorry.  You always need to give and take and forgive and forget.  Talk to each other and don’t just hear – really, really listen.

2. Hold hands, love each other always, kiss in the morning and before bedtime.  Tell each other often, “I love you.”

1. When you marry and say ‘till death do us part, mean it and stick with it.

I’m keeping this list and the newspaper supplement handy, in the top drawer of my bedside table.  I need be reminded that other married couples haven’t always slept on a bed of roses with no thorns.  And it makes me smile to read about the couple who’ve been married 62 years and said, “Love grows with the passing of years until one day you wake up and realize you don’t want to be with anyone else except your sweetheart of many years.”

In six short years, Husband and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary.  Maybe we’ll be featured in the 2019 Golden Anniversary Celebration and give advice.  But until then, we’re like the couple married 65 years who stated, “We’re not a perfect couple, but we never quit trying.”

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