My grandparents just celebrated their 70th anniversary. I keep trying to wrap my brain around that number, but I can’t seem to. SEVENTY YEARS. When they got married, there was no Tupperware, no credit cards, no White-Out, no barcodes, no disposable diapers.
They’ve lived through a lot in these seven decades. They rejoiced when Grandpa made it back safely from World War II, and they got married as soon as possible, on a Tuesday morning. They had twelve children in the span of fourteen years. (Remember the part about no disposable diapers?!) They built a huge bench on one side of the kitchen table to accommodate their growing family and made do with a seemingly insurmountable person-to bathroom ratio.
They witnessed the birth of the next generation (their grandchildren) and now the next (their great-grandchildren). They marveled as family reunions numbered in the hundreds . . . and reached unprecedented decibels. They persevered after Grandpa’s stroke, moving into a place that required less upkeep.
Now Grandma and Grandpa have a daily routine of simple love: eating lunch together and then taking naps side by side in their reclining chairs. Grandpa sleeps a lot now and no longer talks much, but Grandma cheerfully carries the conversation.
One of my favorite stories about Grandma and Grandpa is how they got engaged. Grandpa was flying planes in Europe while Grandma spent Thanksgiving with Grandpa’s parents and brother. After dinner, Grandpa’s brother pulled out the ring on his little brother’s behalf, having gotten specific instructions on size, style, and cut. Grandpa may not have been there physically, but his love was. Their love tethered them across an ocean, across multiple time zones, across a war.
In some ways, it’s not so different now. Grandpa is there physically, but he’s not the strong, vibrant, intellectual man he used to be. Still, their love is no less present. Even now, their love tethers them across sickness, age, loss, and change.
When I wished Grandma a happy anniversary last week, she said, “Honey, we’re so blessed. We’ve had so many more happy years than hard years. I wish you and Daniel all the years and all the love we’ve had.”
In 1943, just a few years before my grandparents got married, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote a letter to a young bride and groom from his prison cell in Nazi Germany. These were his words of counsel: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
Daniel and I just celebrated our 5-year engagement anniversary. In some ways that seems so long—have we really known each other for half a decade? And then I think of Grandma and Grandpa and their seventy years, and I realize we are still so new at this. We don’t know what the future holds in the years ahead, but whatever comes, I pray for that tethering love . . . the kind that sustains through war and age and time. And I thank God because that love isn’t something we have to manufacture ourselves. It’s something that overflows from him.
Only 65 more years to go, my love! (But don’t do the math . . . )