Grandma Betty and Grandpa Tom married in 1942, right before he went to war. They had two children, traveled the world, retired. Today, after nearly seventy years of marriage, they are still in love. They can’t be here today, but they do have a role to play in Susannah and Chris’s wedding, because Grandpa Tom and Grandma Betty have always been our most enduring model of a happy married couple. At the age of 92, he still buys her a valentine every year.
But, when you ask them, “What makes a happy marriage,” they stall. He says, “You just do it. And that’s that. You get married and you stay married. What’s all the the fuss about?” He passes the phone to her. She asks me who I am and where I live and passes the phone back to him. She’s losing her memory and he’s losing his health. Besides, marriage has always come naturally to them, and they have a hard time putting it into words.
It takes some coaxing but Grandma and Grandpa do have quite a bit of advice about how to be married. Here’s what they say:
Marry somebody you like.
Take walks in the fresh air. Except when it’s raining. Then you can sit side by side watching “the boob tube.”
Sleep together. But keep your cold feet off of him.
Bring home some flowers. Take her out to eat occasionally. Go to small places, not the big ones where you have to get all dressed up. Just go as you are, and be comfortable.
Don’t criticize her family. Pretend you like them, even if you don’t.
Don’t be afraid to say what you think. Unless whatever it is you think going to cause a big commotion. Then, don’t be afraid to keep your mouth shut.
Hold her hand. Keep on holding her hand. In fact, I’m holding her hand right now. It’s sticky, but I’m holding it. Anyway, she’s my girl and I don’t hesitate to tell her so.
Those are the things that have made Grandpa Tom and Grandma Betty’s marriage so successful. Common Sense. Small romantic gestures. A healthy dose of midwestern conflict avoidance. That’s what works for them. Susannah and Chris, you’ll have to discover what works for you. Your secrets to a happy marriage will, ultimately, be all your own. Play Scrabble. Find the humor in every situation. Let her do the decorating. Fill your life with wonderful friends who make you laugh.
But when you’re ninety two, and still blissfully in love, I hope you look back and find that you’ve taken at least some of Grandpa Tom and Grandma Betty’s advice.
Marry somebody you like. Take walks in the fresh air. Don’t hesitate to tell her she’s your girl. And keep holding her hand.