Dave’s grandparents, Bill & Jean Young, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last Thursday, April 26th. 70 years. It is quite an accomplishment. Not one seen often and certainly not one that is likely in our culture today where we get married later and divorced often. Inspired by their years of love & commitment, I decided to interview them to see what wisdom they had to share on marriage. I also interviewed several other couples we know & love, all in different ‘stages’ of their marriage, and will be sharing all of them with you throughout the month of May. Come back each Tuesday to gather nuggets of knowledge from these couples and their experiences!
Hometown: Canisteo, NY
Wedding Date: April 26th, 1942
Family: 3 Children, 9 Grandchildren, 15 Great-Grandchildren
What has been your favorite part of marriage?
Grandpa was the first to answer. “Three square meals a day, ” he said with a smile. I knew right away that getting a straight answer out of him would be a challenge. Grandma chimed in saying in her sweet voice, “The interests we’ve shared over the years. Music, singing, sports, cooking, swimming, snowmobiling, lifesaving classes.”
I’ve only known this couple over the last 12 years as they lived their 80s together. Early on, they were still very active. Way more active than I’ve known 80-year-olds to be. Grandpa still hunted and fished most days. My husband hunted with him on a Fall day early in our relationship and I remember him being amazed at how his grandfather was able to scale the hills, scurrying up steep banks that had Dave, in his 30s and hitting the gym every morning, out of breath.
Grandma would put on these large family dinners, making enough food to feed 10 times the number of guests present. Not only did she remember everyone’s birthday, but she knew each grandchild’s favorite cookie and made sure a box of homemade goodies arrived on their doorstep on that day. Even my 30-something husband was still receiving boxes full of snickerdoodles, molasses cookies, pistachios and cherry Twizzlers from Grandma each year. Each newly married couple got a hand-sewn tree skirt. Each new baby got a freshly crocheted blanket at birth and a knitted stocking on their first Christmas.
As they’ve entered their 90s, they’ve slowed down (yes, it took them until their 90s!). While they still maintain their house and a seasonal lake cottage on their own, they don’t do all the activities they once did. But, what they do still do, they do together…grocery shopping, cooking and one of my fondest images of the two of them, enjoying an afternoon cocktail together.
What has been the most challenging part?
Grandpa said that in the early years, it was finances with young kids and just the responsibility of raising kids. He did say that Grandma raised the kids more than he did because he worked nights and hunted during the days. Grandpa, always an avid outdoorsmen, stocked their freezers with deer, wild turkey, pheasant, fish…even squirrels, to feed his family well throughout the year. There was no bulking up at the warehouse club back in those days!
Grandma talked about the 2 years that her and their 14-month old daughter, Sharon, lived with Grandma’s sister while Grandpa went away to fight in World War II. Grandpa flew on bombing mission that flew over Germany from Italy. And I think I have worries with my husband’s job 2 miles away from our house…phewy.
I thought it was interesting that they both pointed to earlier years when the children were young, right in the stage that Dave and I now find ourselves. Right in the stage that we watch marriages and families fall apart all around us. Do we forget that these are just the ‘challenges’ of marriages? Not the signs of failure but the scars of strength built over adversity? A stage that must be passed through in order to unlock the true blessings a lifetime commitment can bestow?
What do you think has changed most about marriages in today’s world?
I figured it would be interesting to see what their thoughts were on way culture has changed ‘marriage’ in all these years. Grandpa’s solemn words seemed to sum up a lot, “People just don’t believe in marriage anymore. You didn’t see folks living together like they do nowadays.”
We may take our grandparents to be “old-fashioned” and their ideals to be outdated, but the view of marriage their generation held, I believe, is much closer to God’s design than what is propagated today.
What advice do you have for couples who want a marriage that lasts a lifetime?
Once again, Grandpa was the first to answer, speaking more wisdom than he likely knew, “Hang in there. It is all a give and take, on both sides.” Although almost cliche these statements bring out two important truths of marriage…perserverance and partnership.
Sweet Grandma, who had nodded along with her husband’s remarks throughout the interview added, “The best part is the companionship we’ve grown over the years, the sense of belonging to each other.” She continued, “Children often hold people together and we’ve enjoyed just being around to watch generations grow.”
My husband’s fondest memories of his childhood are summer days spent at his grandparent’s lake cottage on Demons Pond with all of his cousins. In a small, two-room cottage that was built by Grandma’s father, they enjoyed many days of swimming, fishing, sleep overs…the simple things of childhood. This is the same place Grandma spent her young years. The same place Grandpa swam to from his parent’s cottage to court young Jean Norton. The same place that our own boys enjoy going each summer, surrounded by their cousins, swimming, fishing, sleeping.
Later that evening, Dave and I returned home to find a message from Grandpa on our answering machine. “One very important thing I forgot to mention this afternoon. We had wonderful parents. They were the ones that molded us.”
Thank you Grandpa & Grandma Young. Thank you for being wonderful grandparents. Wonderful great-grandparents. You are the ones that have molded us.
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