Monday, February 20, 2012

The Diamond Years

Fifty Was Nifty, But Sixty Is Sensational
This week, my grandparents celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary.  Wow, that's sixty years of loving, honoring, and cherishing, impressive by anyone's standard today.  I wonder if, when they started out, they knew where they were going to end up.

Drop and give him fifty!
The happy couple
My grandfather, a Marine drill segeant, was stationed in Washington D.C. when my grandparents first met. He proposed to my grandmother when he got orders that he was being reassigned to California to train soldiers headed off to fight in the Korean War.  He told grandma he was worried that she would find another fella while he was away, so he wanted to marry her before he left.

Grandma stayed with her parents while he was in California.  When he got back, they both lived with my great grandparents for six months and shared the family basement with my great-great grandmother.  Grandma told me a story recently about how her grandmother had a bureau with a large mirror that she strategically placed near the partial wall that divided the basement so she could keep an eye on the young couple.  Needless to say, none of their children were conceived until after they got their own place.  But, once they were out on their own, they had thirty four years of child-rearing in their marriage.  That's twelve years where somebody was in a diaper that needed changing!

My grandparents thought they were done after having three kids in the first seven years of their marriage.  Oops!  I mean, surprise!  Year fourteen of married life brought a new bundle of joy who was twelve years younger than their oldest child.  

It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though.  My grandmother had three miscarriages and two still births during the kiddie years.  My mom, the oldest, was actually Grandma's third pregnancy.  Thank God they didn't get discouraged and give up on the whole kid thing or else I wouldn't be here.

Third Tries A Charm: My mom (the one in the diaper) with her parents
Grandpa, who went to work for the railroad after he left the Marines, worked two jobs when money was tight.  Later, when he got a government job, Grandpa worked nights because it paid better.  In spite of this, he still drove my grandma to the grocery store every Friday morning at 9 a.m. sharp.  Bless her heart, my grandmother has never learned how to drive a car. She's a member of the last generation of true housewives.  My grandfather takes her everywhere she wants to go.

They've also had their share of health scares.  Their youngest child, my uncle Bobby, had a life-threatening case of meningitis when he was little.  Nothing scares a parent worse or tests a marriage more than a child with a potentially fatal illness.  Grandpa's had two cataract operations, two knee replacements, and a broken ankle. The cataracts weren't that hard to deal with, but the knee replacements both required stays in a rehabilitation center to get him up and moving again. 

KP duty:  It's just like riding a bicycle.
Grandma's had her share of work done, too. She's had three cancer scares (breast cancer, uterine cancer, and skin cancer) in the last twenty years.  Grandpa was so worried about her after the first cancer scare that it actually changed the gender roles in their marriage a little bit.  For forty years, my grandmother made dinner every night.  After she got home from the hospital following her mastectomy, Grandpa banned her from the kitchen for years for fear she would overdo it and wear herself out.  It turned out the retired drill sergeant still remembered how to do KP duty.  He makes a mean corn casserole and has never served a burnt bird on Christmas Day in the fifteen plus years since he took over cooking Christmas dinner.

My grandparents are the ultimate survivors.  Nothing phases them.  Even being octagenarians hasn't really slowed them down that much.  Grandpa coached CYO girls basketball well into his sixties.  They both volunteered regularly in the kitchen at their church hall into their seventies.  They didn't stop because they decided to retire.  They stopped because the parish closed the church hall.  Not long after he turned 80, Grandpa helped install a set of shower doors at my house. I'll grant you, he was winded after installing them and sat on the toilet seat lid while attaching the towel bars, but how many 80 year olds do you know who would even try to lift glass shower doors. 

The years brought four kids, six grandchildren, and five great grandchildren (so far) into their lives.  The kids and grandkids are following their good example, too.  My parents were married for 24 years before my dad died.  My aunts and uncles have all been married for over 25 years with nary a divorce among them.  Four out of the six grandchildren are already happily married with children.  The only hold-outs (my cousin Joey and myself) will get there eventually, I'm sure.

The happy couple posing with most of their grandchildren
and great grandchildren at Grandma's 80th birthday party last year.


  1. Very nice, Lainey! I hope to be as happy and productive for as long. My parents are just off celebrating 50, so that's some good company.


  2. Gotta love those Grandparents!! They are a fantastic example of dedication and passion making a lasting marriage. :)

    1. They love you, too. Grandma told me to tell "Jan" she says hi.