Here’s to at least five more
My parents are getting ready to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. A feat worth noting for sure. Four and a half decades is a remarkable amount of time to do anything. The only thing I’ve ever committed to for anywhere near that long is being alive.
So this weekend my sisters and I spent some time on the phone wondering how we should acknowledge this upcoming anniversary. Which led to a long trip down memory lane and all of the significant and also meaningless events my parents have been through together. From the birth of three children, to a brain cancer diagnosis for one, to the untimely death of my pet turtle — a lot has happened in the past four-plus decades. After we all hung up the phone, I couldn’t help but wonder how two people who have been married that long could manage to raise three daughters who, for all intents and purposes, are pretty much dysfunctional when it comes to relationships. We are all single, and none of us are even dating at the moment. At any given time, two of us have sworn it off completely. Granted, it’s usually a short-lived oath, but it’s one we tend to take monthly.
My philosophy on dating goes something like this: Relationships are a full-time job and they should be treated as such. If your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to leave you, they should have to give you two weeks’ notice, there should be severance pay, and they should have to find you a temp.
So as my sisters and I contemplated how to recognize my parents 45th wedding anniversary, I couldn’t help but reflect on how my parents have managed to stay together that long. Even longer if you factor in the three years they dated prior to jetting off to Vegas and exchanging "I do’s" in front of a pastor dressed as Elvis.
My little sister wants to have a huge surprise party, inviting all my parents’ friends and our family. My older sister thinks we should send my mom and dad on a lavish celebratory trip. I voted to get them a card and roll the dice. "I’m betting they’ll still be together in five years. Let’s go big for their 50th!" I tried to convince them. Mostly because I need that time to come up with a good gift idea.
We pretty much got nowhere with our plans, except to point out why everyone else’s idea was dumb and get into an argument about democracy. That’s because my older sister has a baby and insists a 16-month old who knows a total of three words should get a vote.
While my sisters and I made little progress and, in all likelihood will forget to even call my parents on their anniversary now, the process did get me thinking quite a bit about what keeps people together. Do we each really have a soul mate? Is there a special recipe for success? Or, in my parents’ case, is it just a mixture of being practical and stubborn?
I say that because when I was home visiting them over the holidays, I asked both of them, "What’s the secret to staying married so long?"
My mom said: "Don’t get divorced."
My dad said: "Separate checking accounts."
Neither was exactly the life-changing advice I expected to hear. They didn’t mention anything about open communication or being each other’s best friend or some psychobabble about listening and forgiving and compromising and supporting. It was pretty unrevealing, tactical stuff.
Despite having not been alone since they were freshmen in college, neither of my parents have ever pressured my sisters or me to settle down. My dad mostly because he doesn’t want to pay for a wedding and my mom, her motivation is probably a bit more practical. She’s always told us, "Getting married is not an accomplishment. Staying married is."
An accomplishment worth noting, and hopefully celebrating. Either now, or in another five years.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis.
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