When I was back in Minnesota I took the opportunity to interview the couple I know who have been married the longest, my grandparents, Gene and June. I wanted to hear what they have to say about marriage and parenting. As always, time flies and there isn’t enough of it. My grandpa had to leave half way through so the last part is just my grandma’s thoughts. What a lovely afternoon it was, spent hearing their stories and memories.
When did you guys first meet?
G: 65 years ago
So when was that?
G: … I imagine probably 1950
And how long have you married?
G: 63 and a half years
What’s the most memorable thing from your wedding day?
G: You know it’s all memorable… probably getting married in the middle of the winter in a catholic church with a whole big long line of stairs made it a very interesting …
On a more serious note, my most memorable memories are of my beautiful wife and how beautiful she was on that day and how she has continued to look that beautiful since.
J: oh Gene …. he’s making brownie points.
And what would you say Grammy is the most memorable memory?
J: Looking at my Dad and he walked me up the aisle, he had such a nice smile, it was very special to me and just the reality of leaving home and making my own family, and just all the people who came and how I couldn’t believe they would all come.
G: we had a big reception at the New Brighton city hall which was above the fire barn… an old building… but we had like a polish reception and then we went back the next day and cleaned up and drank the rest of the liquor.
What advice would you give to newly weds today?
J: I just feel sad when I read that they’re going in thousands of dollars in debt – that just isn’t necessary – you know..
for the wedding?
J: … for a wedding to get married and have your good friends and family there, you know, you can have flowers and cakes and receptions without going way … it’s so sad to hear them spending so much money they didn’t have.
G: my answer is much shorter, 4 words, don’t – wait- so- long. The younger you get married, the easier it is to raise a family and the easier it is to learn how to live together as a couple. I think the longer people live apart the more difficult it is for them to become a married couple. Starting at 35/40 from my point of view is way to late… But that’s the experience that we had.
What would you tell other husbands is the trick to keeping your wife happy?
G: Oh my goodness …. listen. I think it’s different for everybody, you know it’s not the same. I think that the man needs to figure out what it is that makes his wife happy because it’s not the same for everybody at all. June would have loved to have me bring flowers once a week because she loves flowers, but we could never afford to do that, and then I got out of the habit and so now she only gets flowers once a year. But I really think that listening and trying to figure out or learn what it is that your wife really thoroughly enjoys, I mean in the mix of all this is faith, humor, understanding, courage, all of these things that it takes to have a good successful marriage.
And Grammy what would you tell other wives is the trick to helping keep your husband happy?
J: Let him know that you’re proud of him, not just that you love him, but that you’re proud of him. I think that that’s important to a man. And to try to be interested in what he is interested in. If you know that if he really gets excited or enjoys certain things to know a little more about that. Something that I think is important, is you know, friends… friends are important.
Something through the years that I’ve seen… you have your friends and your husband has his friends when you get married, and as these friends get married, or you meet other married couples… if you’re lucky, once in a while you’ll really hit it off with a wife and he will respect and enjoy the husband. More apt that it’s your friend and you really like this gal and the husband has nothing in common with her husband or it’s a fellow that he really likes and [his wife] is so different from you that it’s … you spend time together, but it’s not really easy. I think when you find these people where you enjoy the wife and he enjoys the husband, I think you really want to nurture those friendships, because even if you don’t’ remain in the same city, if you really stay in touch, you’ll still get together and close friends like that where both the wife and husband are friends, is such a gift.
Alright, let’s move to the parenting questions… how many kids do you have?
How many grandkids do you have?
And how many great-grandkids?
So do you think you think as a mom does it get easier with more children or is it just as difficult with every new child?
J: I think…. once that third baby comes, you’ve only got two hands. And you kind of have to trust that … you work it out… you work it out right away… it works. But I think that after the third it doesn’t really matter. Times are different now, there is so much planning and that’s good I think, very good. There was a time where it was hard being pregnant again and not expecting to be … I hated pregnancies but I absolutely loved the babies. Everyone was so so welcome. And I think the little kids get that from you, everyone is so happy they’re having another baby.
What advice would you give to a mom who is overwhelmed?
J: I think that’s natural. And I think that prayer plays a big part, it did for me, that the Lord knows me and knows what I can handle. Only He can give life. So you know, cause everyone, every mother is going to be overwhelmed at different times with one or with six. And I think that if you slow down and you pray about it and … I think… we have to handle, when we start to get overwhelmed about things, we have to handle so we don’t get too overwhelmed.
What do you think has been the greatest joy of being a mom?
J: All the love the children give is just… you don’t earn it, in fact sometimes you think you don’t deserve it, and they have such wonderful love, for just being loved and really feeling it and hearing it. [….]. The little close encounters you have when you’re raising children and then when they get bigger, they do bigger things.
What’s been the greatest joy of being a grandma?
J: Being a grandma?… I think that comes for me, comes through watching my children be parents. And seeing the love and how they work at it and how important it is to them. But you just get to enjoy the grandchildren because you don’t’ have the overall responsibility for them.
And what’s the great joy of being a great-grandma?
J: I think it’s the same, through the eyes of the parents and their parents, it’s such a, to me, it’s almost a religious thing, it completes the family and now I can go. I mean it just completes the family and the cycle. Go and make room for another generation.
What advice would you give to new parents trying to balance marriage and babies?
J: I don’t know who said it but a famous saying from quite a while ago… the best thing a man can do for his children is love their mother… boy that makes a lot of sense. Cause I think there is strength in young couples to see their parents solid and not shook up about every little thing. I think it gives you some strength. You know there is such a difference in people, there’s such a difference in money, who’s got it, who doesn’t, there is such a different in worldly possessions that if you really have each other, and your love, and your faith … just try to relax and enjoy the days…
I think of myself often as the little blond 10, 12,14 year old running up and down the country roads seeing my friends. I had to be home after school because there wasn’t a city bus, we didn’t have a telephone, I couldn’t make arrangements someone else to pick me up or take me home. I just had to plain get home on that bus and then if there was time Greta and Eleanor were two girls whose parents lived down one road and down another dirt road lived Mert. And I’d go see one of the girls and we’d talk, walking up and down those roads, walking each other home, and just… you know just talk about girl stuff and living out there, who do you know at school, this or that, and that was… pretty much life all those years. Go to school and come home and you had to be home. So often I think of myself just walking one of those roads with one of those girls.
And I know Gene had a very simple life with one brother, and his folks didn’t have much … and how come God has blessed us with all of this? All the people here, all the people I’ve known through anything I’ve belonged to. Just feel like you wonder why you’re worthy to have been given the seven children we have.. they’re wonderful… they really contribute to the world, to their communities, to their families, and our wonderful grandchildren. There again… I don’t know… I’m very very humbled by it all, very very appreciative …. very appreciative and I just thank God for his gifts.