Today John and I interviewed and videotaped my parents. Dad is 89 and mom is 88. They have been married for 60 some years. My goal from today was to have some footage outlining their life for me and my brothers and grandkids to keep and cherish. What I didn’t expect was to learn something!
During the taping, my parents were snuggled in together side by side with no space between them. They were holding hands the whole time and dad had a continual smile on his face reminiscing about the details of their love story. I didn’t tell them to do this. This is just what they do. They have always been affectionate for each other for as long as I can remember. My dad even occasionally pats mom on the butt and then my mom gives a little squeal and acts surprised. To this day, mom can bend over and take cookies out of the oven and I will see a “pop” and an “Oh, Art!” soon following. Dad would also find “excuses” to come talk to mom when she was getting ready, standing in her slip in front of the mirror putting on makeup. Witnessing this growing up, I decided I’d know if I found the right guy when he gives me a little smack too! Dad complimented mom every meal and mom always talked about how handsome dad was. I learned at an early age just how much power a female can hold and in what ways. I witnessed how alive and vibrant my parents enthusiasm for each other was.
Being divorced twice, I’ve spent lots of time analyzing where I went wrong, why relationships haven’t always worked out the best for me, and what my parents have that I don’t. I’ve spent lots of time placing blame on the men in my life. After all, it HAD to be their fault. I was close to perfect because my mom had always raised me to do what’s right! Haha!
After listening to my parents today, I had an awakening. It goes to show we can always learn from our parents no matter how old we are. Being grown up and 46, I had really gotten to the point I thought I knew more than them! After all, I’m technically savvy and they are old fashioned. I’ve been to college and they haven’t. I can build a computer. I can finish a basement. I’m an outgoing, knowledge seeking, self-help book reading, city girl! I’ve lived on my own. I don’t need a man! I’ve managed businesses and started my own. My parents grew up on a farm. They never left Ottawa. They have barely traveled. They haven’t been to Europe like I have! What can they possibly know that I don’t know? Right?
All throughout the interview, I started noticing common threads. The same words kept coming up. Words like… Respect. Love. Appreciation. Happiness. Giving. Mom said she had always wanted a home and a family. Thats all she needed. Ive heard that line from her a million times. Funny, but today I finally got it. She said dad gave her a home. I could tell she is still grateful for that. Really, honestly, grateful! She never takes dad for granted. How is this possible after sixty some years? After the interview was over, she looked out the window and commented how nice the neighbors keep their yard and what great neighbors they are and how lucky they are to have neighbors like this.
Then, mom went and got the corsage out of the refrigerator that dad bought her for Easter. She wanted to show it to me. Everything that happens with mom is an event. During my visits to Ottawa, mom always shows me the many cards she gets from friends. She shows me whatever new knickknacks she has bought or dad has bought for her. Today, she showed me the new vacuum and all the accessories. Usually I’m bored with this process but I pretend to be interested since I want to make mom happy. But, you know what? Today I enjoyed the process. I tried to see the world through her eyes. Mom is Grateful. Every day is a new day. One more day with dad. She appreciates her home. Always. She still loves it as much as she did the day they moved in, back in 1971. She loves her yard. She loves dad just as much as the day she married him. She loves all her neighbors. I hear stories about their lives. She loves the decorations in the home. She loves their old Chrysler cuz it’s big and they don’t make cars like that now. She won’t let dad sell it and buy a smaller compact car. She talks about what all dad does for her.
Dad feels the same way. He always shows me old pictures I’ve seen a million times and tells me stories I’ve heard just as many times. I laugh and smile and pretend it’s the first time I’ve heard it. He takes me to his office and brings out something old. Once again.
I usually think to myself, what a boring life they lead. How can they stand living in Ottawa, eating at the same places, never going anywhere, just the two of them, no Internet, no FB, no drinking cocktails, heck they can barely even drive anymore. How can they be happy? They have very little “stuff.” The stuff they do have is old! Same ole, same ole. What do they have to even talk about? The latest crossword puzzle? Bingo? Walmart?
Today it hits me. I’m busy seeking, seeking, acquiring… trying to earn more money, trying to buy a fancier car in addition to my Jeep, trying to grow my business, and trying to gain eternal peace and happiness. I’m busy looking for security. I’m listening to self improvement podcasts and spiritual audio tracks. I have the latest and greatest including an iPad, iPhone, a laptop and a desktop Mac. A beautiful home and studio. Still I’m seeking. What I have isn’t enough. I want more. I also want peace and right now I’m struggling with that. Then it hits me. I need to listen to my parents. I need to emulate them. They were right after all! (Who knew?!?)
I need to go back to kindergarten. 1. Be nice to others. 2. Help others whenever you can. 3. Appreciate family and friends. You never know when you might need them or they you. 4. Appreciate everything you get and say “thank you” for it. 5. Love others as you love yourself. 6. Appreciate what you have today because tomorrow is unknown. 7. Tell your loved ones you love them. Say it. 8. Give hugs often. 9. It’s ok to argue, but get over it quickly. Kiss and make up. 10. Don’t hold a grudge. 11. Forgive easily. 12. (This one is the most important one of all for couples) Every night, go to bed with your partner at the same time. Don’t go to bed mad. Lay in their arms. Give them a goodnight kiss…. Every night. Say, “I Love You.” Chitchat about the day for a bit. Dream. Scheme. Plan. Tell them why you love them. Tell them what you’re grateful for. Talk about your goals. Find common ground. Be partners in life on the same team. I mean, isn’t that why you are with that person?
You know what common things all the self help stuff has been saying to me? Forgive. Love yourself. Love others. Be grateful. Be happy. Don’t do what you don’t like to do for a living cause you spend too much time at your job to spend it doing what you don’t like. Mom told dad to quit working for Coca Cola and go back to the grocery business. It was what he loved doing. Yes, it paid less. Yes, they struggled financially. You can imagine with five kids. But dad loved it. Mom wanted him happy. It was simple. There wasn’t a choice to be made. It was an easy decision. Dad gave mom her home and her kids, mom gave him the ok to take a pay cut in exchange for happiness. They loved each other. They wanted what is best for each other. Self help: Accept your flaws and love yourself anyway. Let go of anger. Treat others nice even if they do you wrong. What they think of you is their problem, not yours. Believe. Dream. Hope. Think positive thoughts. Don’t dwell on negative. Is all of this sounding familiar? It was to me! Mom and dad are living it. They could write this stuff!
Today I wanted to know the secret of mom and dads lasting marriage in a world where divorce is an epidemic. Just one thing. One secret. I kept waiting for it. When I didn’t hear the secret, I finally asked them what they thought it was. Just one thing, I asked. They looked at each other. They shrugged their shoulders. They said they didn’t know for sure. They were holding hands. Loving each other. Smiling. Grateful for their marriage. Reveling in their happiness. Reflecting on their common goals. Talking about their respect for each other. Talking about their struggles but how much fun they had in the midst of it and all they gained from going through them together. Looking out the window of the house they cherish. Smiling at me so happy I was there to visit. Thanking me for coming. Hmmmmm. What is the secret? Duh.