“Have you ever really held the hand of someone you love? Not just in passing, a loose link between you – but truly clasped, with the pulses of your wrists beating together and your fingers mapping the knuckles and nails like a cartographer learning a country by heart?” ― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls
My parents have been married for 60 years today. Sixty years of living and loving, and working with and around each other. Of building careers, raising a family, loving on grandchildren, saying goodbye to their own parents and a beloved brother, welcoming son and daughter-in-laws (and soon to be grandson-in-law). Of nurturing gardens and churches and friends and dreams. Of being there for each other, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.
Through house remodels, camping trips, teaching assignments, hospital stays, world adventures, fishing expeditions, quilt making, family tree and slide shows-to-end-all-slide-show producing. Of sharing, of listening, of cleaning up other people’s messes (including mine), of showing us all how marriages work.
And holding hands. Holding hands through all of it.
I’ve struggled with how to write about their marriage, as I really believe no one knows what goes on inside anyone’s relationship. Even the good ones have some complications. I think I know my parents well, but still…it’s their story, not mine.
Except it is mine. Their marriage is how I learned to be married. It’s how I am still learning (and it still puzzles me that after 35+ years, I have not mastered this…shouldn’t I be better at it by now?). My parents and my in-laws, Vince and Adeline, have 122 years of marriage between them. That is something spectacular. And special. And rare.
Last year there was an “event” that required me to spend a night in a hospital emergency room with my mom and dad. Dad was in the bed, annoyed, but behaving. She sat next to him, holding his hand.
I sat across from them, trying to take it all in. Watching them. Holding hands.
I recalled all of the times, in the midst of family activities, when I would see them reach for each other’s hand. If I paid attention, I could see one of them squeeze…and then watch them look at each other. This is a special moment. Sometimes he reaches for her. Sometimes she’s reaching out for him. But there is always the squeeze. The moment where they both know this is to be cherished.
They are the first to admit they are older. Slowing down. Mom calls this their “reflective period.” They are in their last chapters, and they are enjoying every moment of their time together. Almost every day includes some patio time, reading, service to others, a little exercise, gardening, card writing, maybe a BBQ, and wine.
This is marriage. Holding hands. May we all have someone to love and to hold. And…squeeze.
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.