Secret to long, happy marriage?

Published 12:51 am Saturday, February 8, 2014

What is the secret of a long, happy marriage?

One of the joys of my life was to pull into the driveway at my paternal grandparents’ home and find the two of them sitting side by side in their rockers on the front porch. I must have been married several years before I fully realized how blessed I was to still have living grandparents at that stage of my life. They were married more than 60 years, long enough for both of my children to get to know and enjoy them.

I remember visiting them with my own parents on Sunday afternoons when I was a little girl; then with my husband and children in later years. Granddaddy was just as thrilled as my grandmother was when our car rolled in. They left their chairs to rush out in the yard to greet us. Granddaddy hugged and kissed us all, just like Grandmother. As we lounged on the porch, it was not unusual to see him lean over and plant a big, noisy kiss on Grandmother’s cheek. Aunts, uncles, cousins, other kin, and friends often joined us during those visits. Sometimes Grandmother recited poems she had composed about family members. Occasionally when we all visited on the porch, she allowed our daughter to unfasten the bun she wore on the back of her head and brush her hair. Peals of laughter often rang out from the crowd swapping stories and reminiscing about their childhood.

My maternal grandparents also enjoyed a long, happy marriage. They had three daughters and two sons. My mother, the middle daughter, often mentioned the void she felt because all her grandparents died before she was born. Mother’s parents moved numerous times during her childhood, following my granddaddy’s jobs at a lime plant and with a timber company. Grandmother loved gardening and tending flowers in her yard wherever they lived. She resided with my parents after my granddaddy died and spent many hours piecing quilt blocks by hand. She believed in the old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

My daddy’s parents married in their teens. They left their hometown to take jobs in a cotton mill. Granddaddy later worked for a coal mining company. I know he toiled long hours. Grandmother gave birth to eight youngsters. Two of them died at an early age.

Life was not easy for either set of my grandparents. My grandmothers did not have the modern conveniences we take for granted today to make meal preparation, family laundry, and housework much easier. As a child, I remember a big, black wash pot and a scrub board sitting in my maternal grandmother’s yard.

I never thought about asking either set of my grandparents to what they attributed their long, happy marriage. However, once when I interviewed several couples celebrating anniversaries over 50 years, they cited trust, sense of humor, showing affection, tolerating each other’s shortcomings, and keeping their troubles to themselves. I believe all of this applied to my grandparents’ marriages.