This past week, my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and I stood in front of the greeting card rack for a very long time.
Whenever I try to buy a card for my mom or dad, I have a heck of a hard time. I almost bought a “blank inside” card because there wasn’t anything that even came close to telling them what I was thinking on the occasion of this milestone anniversary.
My parents have the kind of marriage that used to intimidate me. Other kids’ parents fought. Mine never did. Other kids would play one parent off the other. That got me exactly nowhere. My parents have always been best friends and I have always known their priority was one another. My sister and I never doubted that we were important and loved, but my parents would rely and care first for each other. It was a wonderful thing to see as a kid. It is wonderful to see today.
After 60 years, my parents complement one another so well, it is hard to see where one leaves off and the other picks up. My dad bakes the bread, my mother makes it into toast. My dad plans, my mother organizes. My dad’s eyesight has gone bad, so my mother reads aloud for both of them.
My mom says, exasperated, “I read the book, but he remembers everything in it.”
A Harvard psychology professor wrote a book about how to continue to enjoy the things one likes best without growing tired of them. The trick, he explained, was to do something else for a while then return to that favorite thing. My parents have lived this way all their life. They have a cabin they love, and they leave it for a while every year. Then they return to the cabin and love it more than ever. I’ve watched them do this now for decades. They managed to figure this out (as far as I know) without reading a single psychology textbook.
Whereas I try to acquire and keep good habits, my parents just live a habitually good life. They exercise every day. They may not go quite as far as fast, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them. They enjoy healthy food in moderation. They are so in sync that my mother tells me their weight rises and lowers very slightly — but always in unison.
I am still learning from them. Now, I am learning to age with dignity and a spirit of curiosity. I am learning how to accept that every life brings increased frailty of some type or another and how to accept and adapt to physical changes with grace and good humor.
My parents keep learning new things as well, together, exploring new places, meeting new people, discussing new ideas. And they keep laughing. My parents are always finding new things to laugh about.
Standing in front of the card rack, I saw my selection was dismal. Most of the cards were terribly maudlin and sappy sentimentality is not my parents’ style. Finally, I saw a card with two silly pieces of toast holding hands and flying out of the toaster together.
“Woohoo. There are no two people I’d rather toast.” it said, and I thought that was fitting.
My dad bakes the bread. My mom makes it into toast. They eat breakfast together every morning and talk about what they are going to do as they fly out of the toaster together and celebrate one more wonderful day.
Happy 60th, Mom and Dad. I love you.