I am in love with this photo. You cannot even see their eyes but you can feel their twinkle. The tears well even now. It's just so sweet. I would love to know the artist who took it, but on the web, only the AP is credited. This one moment causes me to ponder the mountains this couple has climbed, or raging rivers they've forged together, and the victory, loss, elation, sorrow they've wandered through, and I stagger. They have also shared the heartbreak of losing a child. That one fact alone destroys most marriages. Theirs remains a success.
From the little that I know about them, I love that he let her be, well ....her. She found a way to give her opinion, if asked, but never forced it. I love that she believed in him, no matter what. I was in college when he was president, so perhaps I wasn't tuned in to the press, but I remember her laughter and quick wit, never taking either one of them too seriously.
Sixty-nine years! That's nearly 20 years PAST 50. Blows my mind.
My own marriage is entering a new phase these days, and maybe that's why this story touches me. I mentioned a few days ago that Air Force retirement is upon us. Resumes are tweaked every night. Discussions of options occur often. But I can tell that it requires a little soft-stepping on both our parts. I watch as he ends a part of life that has given him worth and purpose for 24 years. Somehow he must find the next chapter that will give the same, or at least attempt to. Finding worth and purpose from another venture differs from me giving those to him, and he must learn to define himself differently. I think this transition will be similar to what my days will look like when my homeschool era ends. I have lived fifteen years with this responsibility, with 6 more on the horizon. After 21 years of this being my primary purpose, my passion will need to come from elsewhere. I will have to define myself as something else, not someone's mom and teacher.
One of my favorite scenes from any movie is in The Notebook when Noah gifts Allie with her own artist studio, outfitted with endless paints and supplies. He saw her at her core from the beginning, for her passions, not for how the world, or her family, defined her. Even 50 years later and nursing home bound, he still defines her at her innermost being, though to everyone else, she is an Alzheimer's patient. Perhaps that is the secret of marriage - defining each other based on our own cores, the deep down beings that only ourselves and our Creator see and know.
My own parents will celebrate 60 years married in August. I spent a few days with them alone recently and had them to myself for a bit. (Perhaps we had a little too much fun here in the doctor's office.) With those days fresh in my rear view, I pondered long at the idea of marriage from the Bush anniversary press, and this Matt Walsh article, not to mention my own family, and so here are my profound thoughts. Buckle your seat belts. At the beginning of marriage, the problem at hand seems to be learning how to overcome our selfish selves and put the other's needs first. Laughing together at life's twists and turns keeps us humble and whimsical. We dive in together to raise offspring and then suddenly they are gone, leaving us to redefine our lives, our home, ourselves. Too soon then, our bodies fail us and the challenge again becomes how to put our natural selves aside and put the other's needs first. It all comes full circle.
The years will come and go, ebb and flow, titles change, headlines change, needs change, bodies change. Just like the Bush photo, laughter and the Lord pull us through it all. I am grateful that in an era of epic failures, the press still sees and reveres a marital success.