Grow Old With Me

So, the little salt and pepper shakers have been a matched set for 58 years now. 58 years. 5.8.  I mean, I don’t even know what to say for my parents’ anniversary this year … it’s not often I’m at a loss for words, as you all surely know by now. The lack of poetic flourishes notwithstanding, I’m awestruck at the feat – I mean, 58 years! But also their obvious devotion, which has been on full display even more recently. Oh sure, sometimes they seem more like Tom and Jerry than Ozzie and Harriet, but the love binding them together for all these years remains a force to be reckoned with. And no doubt the best is yet to be.

The Adventure Continues

My parents’ 57th wedding anniversary is tomorrow – June 15th. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I think this might be the first year that I haven’t confused the date. It fell on Father’s Day one year, ages ago, and for me, I’ve equated the two ever since, making me perpetually late in wishing them a Happy Anniversary. Father’s Day changes every year, you say? No matter. You underestimate my ability to be wrong about something.

Hey, did you know there are traditional gift themes for each year of wedded bliss? First year is paper. Fifth year is wood. Twentieth year is china. Well, as far as I can tell, by year 57 all the ideas have been used up. By that time only the anniversaries ending in 0s or 5s get a themed gift. Seriously. On the list of “traditional gifts” the years skip from 55 right to 60.

My guess as to why that is: maybe whoever made the list felt that people grinding out 55 to 60 years of holy matrimony are too busy trying to not kill each other to really celebrate the honored day. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe by that point, not trying to choke each other is a gift in and of itself. “I didn’t suffocate you with a pillow this morning sweetie, Happy Anniversary! Want some breakfast?” Personally, I think 57 years of marriage—murderous thoughts notwithstanding—is one hell of an accomplishment.

The lists of traditional gifts often give an alternative modern gift for the couple who want to stay hip and with the times. For example, the first-year anniversary’s “modern” take on the traditional paper theme is clocks. How the two are related completely escapes me. Now while there isn’t a traditional gift for 57 years of wedded bliss, a modern alternative my parents have for celebrating their anniversary is a glass or a mirror. A glass, particularly of the decanter variety, I can understand. Giving each other something to hold the sweet nectar of alcohol or caffeine I can see as being invaluable to such a lengthy marriage. Sadly, my parents can have neither. So that’s a firm no on the glass option.

Mirror, it is. But really? A mirror? All I can really see my parents doing with a mirror is holding it up within an inch of the other’s face and saying, “SEE! I told you there was a smudge on your face! You just couldn’t believe me, could you? Noooo…of course not.” I’m not sure I want to be the purveyor of such a contentious gift.

Despite their individual secret schemes on how to plan what can only be described as the perfect murder, in real life my parents do what they can to keep each other out of the ground for as long as possible. Which is particularly good news for my dad. If anyone was going to kill an old man and get away with it, it would be my mother. That woman is nothing if not thorough.

I’ve often wondered what the secret is to a long marriage such as theirs. In an age when a marriage that makes it five years can be seen as “a good run,” there’s got to be something special to keep two people together for close to SIX decades. I believe that my brother and I were maybe that special ingredient in the glue that has bound them. No, not because their love for us created an unbreakable bond.  It was more than that. I think they decided years ago that whichever one of them asked for a divorce, they had to be the one to take the children.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us…still do for some crazy reason. It’s impressive really, given what we put them through. It’s just that together, they were strong enough to counter my and my brother’s daily foolish antics. They could commiserate late at night and bolster each other’s mental stability – “Did you SEE what that boy did? Just look!” “Oh well, that’s nothing on what the girl tried to get away with today…let me tell you!”  Ahh, there’s nothing like having a common enemy to keep people together.

At its essence, having each other’s back is their mainstay – their rock. Sure, they may squabble and they may pick at each other, but my dad still makes my mom her coffee (decaf these days) every single morning before heading out to the backyard to feed her feathered friends – I mean, hey, she needs company while she sits on the deck, having her morning cup of joe. In return, she makes sure his meds are always in order and that he has his fishing hat when he goes out on the water so his shiny bald head doesn’t burn.  And god help the outsider who speaks ill of either one of them.

 

Cookie Cutter Roles

You may have heard of a Facebook poster, Always Learning, a Christian woman, who advocates traditional marriage and gender roles. Her husband works outside the home, and presumably she is a homemaker – meaning she works in the home. In other words, apparently, she does the housework, she does the chores. Not an easy feat, especially if they have kids. Now I’m not here to advocate or argue for stay at home moms or working moms (I’ve been both actually at one time or another)…because both scenarios are exhausting, difficult, and often thankless jobs.  I was just fascinated with the backlash this woman received and I wanted to address it in my own little opinionated way.  Lucky you guys.  Hang on though, because my views on this topic are likely not what you’d expect.

Always Learning recently made a post that went viral. You may not have seen the original post but you’ve probably seen the articles vilifying her for making it, such as this one by Jessie Dean Altman, which started out by mocking the way Always Learning makes her posts (they are actually beautifully hand-printed entries on a notebook page, photographed and posted to her Facebook account) and then excoriating her for her “traditional” views.

Here’s the original post by Always Learning.

Do you “expect” your husband to help w/ household chores? If you do, you won’t have a happy marriage b/c expectations destroy relationships. If he helps, great, and if not, do your housework cheerfully as unto the Lord. Remember, you didn’t marry your husband to help w/ the household chores. You married him to be your protector and provider. You should also have married him b/c you deeply loved him, wanted to be a great help meet to him, and to make his life better, not worse and put more burdens upon his shoulders that he already has to carry in providing for his family.

Make his life as easy and happy as you can!

This post – and people’s reaction to it – got me thinking about gender roles and today’s feminism.

What is “women’s work” and why is “women’s work” always said in a rather disparaging tone?

And I longed to ask this woman for more information. What is her definition of household chores? Does she do the “men’s work” as well? When I was a kid that’s how the household chores were divided – “men’s work” and “women’s work,” though the chore categories weren’t specifically labeled as such out-loud. It’s just how things were done. My dad would mow the lawn, wash and polish the cars, and fix any electrical or mechanical thing that would go wrong. My mom would wash and dry dishes, do the laundry, and vacuum all the rooms (among other things).  Most of my friends’ houses were divided up the same way.

When the feminist movement started in the late ’70s, it was to press for equality. Women should get paid the same as men for doing the same kind of work, and women could do anything a man could do (duh), from flying a commercial airliner to being the CEO of a major corporation. If they wanted to go out to work, they should be allowed to do so, and not be expected to quit just because they got pregnant or the husband didn’t want them in the workforce. And the traditional women’s work – making clothes (some women still do this today), quilting, cleaning house – should be recognized for exactly what it represents, a significant contribution to the family and to society (not just busy work).

Which of course meant that there was no reason why men should be ashamed to help with the “women’s work” portion of the household chores. In fact, they were (and still are) encouraged by all manner of articles, books, self-appointed critics marriage counselors, and most of all their “better halves,” that housework was something that should be shared.  It’s all about equality, right?

Now, some women – and Always Learning appears to be one of them – seem to have a different view. She believes that men shouldn’t have to do household chores at all. Or at least, they shouldn’t be expected to, in her words.  Okay, good for her.  Who cares?  It’s her life, her house, her marriage, her choice, right?  Apparently not, according to those writing about her.

A lot of women, and men, nowadays do expect women to work outside the home, that it’s a “given” – and some women’s groups are even advocating that they be drafted for combat duty in our military (which again, I’m not arguing for or against, just making a point that the feminist movement has evolved).

What has happened with this evolution of the movement?  Women who are “just” stay-at-home moms, who are content to be housewife and mother, are often looked down upon. Especially those women who also follow a religious path. They should want more than that, is the general consensus. So the entire focus of feminism, to me, seems to be changing. And maybe not for the better.

The whole point of feminism and the feminist movement, as I understand it, is for women to be able to live the life they choose, have total equality in government, social standing, and the work force (should they decide to enter it). Not to mention the reforms made early on (and still being fought for today) concerning domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and reproductive rights.

This woman in the Facebook blog is not advocating that women become second-hand citizens or lose their rights as “women” or as “people,” she’s simply giving advice based on her faith, her ideals, and her household.  While I don’t agree with it and never would (which is likely why I’m not still married!), this woman should be allowed her own life without being mocked or vilified for it.  Such is “feminism” in today’s world sadly.  Women mocking women because one is simply living the life she wants.

Social equality should mean being able to live the life you want as you want it, rather than being forced into something.  Shouldn’t that mean ALL lifestyles?  If this woman wants a marriage with traditional gender roles, so be it. She shouldn’t be mocked for it.  The feminist movement and all those behind it should have her back on this – IF they’re feminists.

Yes, she’s giving advice based on her views of traditional roles – but no one is twisting anyone else’s arm to make them live the way she does. She’s not claiming you’ll go to hell if you don’t follow her ideals and she’s not forcing her lifestyle on anyone.  Just like with any of the thousand pieces of marriage advice or parenting advice you may come across in a week, if you don’t like the advice she’s giving and don’t agree with it, move on.  Simple, right?  I thought so.

Feminism is supposed to give us equality. That means we get to choose what we do with our lives. So long as the woman is making the choice (and not being forced), good for her in whatever she may choose. I may not understand the mentality and I definitely wouldn’t advocate the lifestyle for my daughter or myself. In fact, I don’t agree with much of anything Always Learning has to say (big surprise there, I know). BUT whether it’s my cup of tea or not is irrelevant.  The feminist movement has paved the way for me, as a woman, to choose my own path, as it has done for so many of today’s women. Why isn’t Always Learning allowed the same luxury?

Endurance

So. My parents celebrate their 56th year anniversary today.  I’ll repeat.  That’s 5 – 6.  Fifty Six.  In an age of disposable marriages as easy to come by as disposable spoons, my parents have racked up fifty-six years. Perhaps that’s because in “their day” commitment meant something other than the asylum (although really, if you ever went to their house, especially when my brother and I were young, you’d think they were already in one) and true to their word, my parents have lived up to the definition.

Personally, I think this staying power is in large part due to infinite patience…my mother hasn’t killed my father yet and strangely, seemingly has no plans on doing so. Although in all likelihood, no-one would be surprised if she ever were to snap.

Instead, once a week, she takes an hour to count out all of the medicine he needs for the week and puts them in a sectional pill holder (and this, in addition to monitoring his diet) in a never-ending attempt to keep him around even longer. For his part, my father still opens doors, holds my mother’s hand across the parking lot to keep her footing steady, and buys her little unexpected culinary treats when he ventures to the store alone. I sincerely admire the fortitude and dedication they each extend to the relationship and the love that has endured despite the struggles they’ve shared throughout the years.

They are my rock. My sun. No matter what is going on in my world, they are the one thing I can count on as being solid, even if they are having a “nit-picking” day.

Happy Anniversary to you both!

old couple

Quote Challenge – Day 1

I want to thank The Ugly Duckling’s Life for including me in the Quote Challenge. You should check out her blog at https://theuglyducklingslife.wordpress.com/, it’s really cool. I mentally accepted the challenge when she first posted it a couple of days ago, but waited to like her post and mention it until I could actually start.

So, here is my first quote – while my life does not echo that of Gilda Radner (the magnificently creative and gifted soul who died way too young), this nonetheless strikes a definite chord with me.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”  ~ Gilda Radner

 

And here are the rules for the Quote Challenge:

  1. Post your three favorite quotes, one on each day, for three consecutive days. The quote can be from any book, author, or your own quote.
  2. Tag three other bloggers with each post to challenge them.
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you.

Along with other bloggers I’ve seen though who have done this challenge, I’ve decided to ignore rule #2. No one likes to be ignored at the party (and quite frankly, all of the blogs I follow are amazing, which is why I follow them), so I’m extending an open invitation to this challenge for anyone who reads this and would like to participate.  So – have at it!

Wedded Bliss Redux

This is a repost (a revisit more like) from last year around this time and I was late then as I’m late now. I will once again apologize to my parents because it seems like every year I equate their anniversary with Father’s Day. So this year, I was expecting it to be this coming weekend and it’s not.  It was yesterday.  So I missed it. Again. I don’t know why I can’t keep the two days straight and separate. Every year since the dawn of time I’m reminded (after the fact) that I’m indeed wrong — it may fall on Father’s Day once in a blue moon, but not always.

And I don’t think being the favorite child is going to get me out of continually forgetting this fact (considering just how long it has been now).  But I will beg for mercy and just remind my folks once again that out of all their children (all 2 of us), I am their most beautiful, favorite, loving, smartest, (and above all) modest, and least high maintenance, least annoying child…and that should count for something, right?  Right!?

And oh yeah, I love you guys — more than anything.

 

Here’s to Wedded Bliss:

It’s unfortunate that this is a not-very-odd conversation these days:

Friend 1: Did you hear? Sue and Jeff are getting divorced?

Friend 2: Wow, how long have they been married?

Friend 1: Five years!

Friend 2: Well, at least they gave it all they had.

Yes, friends, sadly people these days hold on to cars and computers longer than they do marriage licenses. In the days when so-called role models treat “commitment” with less respect than a pinky swear (Britney Spears’ marriage, 55 hours. Kim Kardashian’s second marriage, 72 days) what couple can be expected to last long enough to see if the seven-year itch actually exists?

My parents, that’s who. Yesterday (which was not Father’s Day) was my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary.  That’s right.  55 years.  If you’ve never read the “The Lockhorns” comic strip before, do yourself a huge favor and Google it (or click on the picture below). You’ll quickly get the premise:  an old married couple that does nothing but complain about each other, but in their insults is a special kind of love (you have to look deep, but it’s there, I swear). My parents, they’re my live action version of The Lockhorns; the sort of couple that practices the Old School style of marriage. The kind where they may bicker and nag and nit-pick and groan through each and every day, but when one of them holds out their hand, the other is still there to grab it. They’re like those cute salt and pepper shaker sets that fit together. My Dad makes my Mom’s daily coffee.  My Mom makes my Dad’s fishing trip lunches. They just go together. Not to mention they’ve developed a sort of non-verbal, thought-reading kind of communication that is amazing to witness.

Over half a century with one person is definitely something to admire but it’s made even more so given the throwaway society we seem to live in. Whatever their secret, be it love or simply tolerance or a smooth balance of both, my parents are an inspiration. Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

 

Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Us vs Them

Browsing through Huffington Post a little while ago I ran across an interesting article written by a wife and mother with an interesting stance on the two roles she has assumed in her family life. The title of the article Why My Husband Will Always Come Before My Kids spelled it out pretty clearly.

Oh, I have to read this, I thought. Being a mother myself and having spent over half of my life in the position of “wife,” I was aching to see where this article went. Predictably, it did not disappoint and left me quite shocked by the end. Long story short (if you can’t open up the link above and read it for yourself), husband is numero uno in her life. Kids: second-tier citizens. Let me pull some key quotes that help illustrate this provocative stance even better:

“I love my kids and would do anything for them. But I love my husband more.” This seems quite contradictory to me. Let’s go ahead and play this out. Say a burglar creeps into the house one night. The heist goes south and the burglar puts her in a Sophie’s Choice situation. He (or she…burglars can certainly be women — I’m all pro-gender equality over here) holds both her husband and her kids at gunpoint and tells her to choose who lives and who dies. Based on the quote above, she would pick her husband. She would save him rather than go with her human instinct to do what she could to make sure her genes made it to future generations. The goal of life is to proliferate. From a purely scientific standpoint her stance sounds vaguely anti-Darwinian.

“If we can only afford to take one vacation a year, we take it alone…” I’m all about having a “date night” with your significant other. A romantic night at an Italian restaurant drinking wine with your beloved and remembering that life doesn’t have to be about the kids 110% percent of the time can be great for maintaining sanity. But squirreling away a little vacation nest egg for months or even years just to leave your kids on the porch while you jet away to the Florida Keys, Catalina, or wherever, for a week of indulgence is pushing it.

The author wants her behavior to be an example to her kids of a healthy relationship between caretakers so that they know how to “form bonds when they get older,” but what about the bonds being formed when they’re still young? When I was growing up, family vacations were an integral bonding moment for us and they’ve given me some of the best memories of my life. Those trips certainly make for some of the best stories ever told around my parents’ holiday dinner table.

As a parent myself, I can’t imagine not sharing such moments with my kids. If I had a chance to take a one of a kind trip, I’d want to share that experience with my children. But then again, I’m not drawing a line in the sand like the author of the article seems to be doing.

As one commenter to the article put it: “I don’t think it’s an either or situation.” To this I agree. The entire article has a generalized air of confusion about it (in my mind) because I don’t understand why a competition or some sort of a familial hierarchy has to exist.

To me, it doesn’t have to be so black and white. She’s creating an “us” vs. “them” mentality which seems unnecessary. Everyone – wife, husband, son, daughter – can all live in harmony, on the same plane of love without relegating certain individuals to the lower classes. Sure compromise will need to be exercised on a daily basis, but that’s a part of the entire process.

I agree with her that marriage is work and you must do what you can to keep it alive, romantic, and intimate. I think this is what the author was trying to get at but it came out in a much more cold way than intended. At least I truly hope this is what her message was supposed to be.

If she doesn’t understand that once you have children they become priorities, then she is not the type of mother I would want raising any children. Love your partner, yes. Take measures to keep that flame alive, sure. But don’t place them on a pedestal without reason. Narcissism has no place in a family.