My dad was a great dad. I was nuts about him, and he was nuts about me. He made me feel so special. I remember spending many evenings cuddled up next to him on the sofa, he studying his Bible or a theological book, me studying chemistry or reading a novel for an English class. He was a person who really listened, who asked about your day and cared about your answer. He was my rock, my security, my standard of excellence, the one I would never want to disappoint.
Shortly before I got married, my sister told me, "Prepare yourself. Dad will not be the same with you after you are married." She is eight-and-a-half years older than I, and she had been married for 6 years. I suppose it made her a little envious to watch my close relationship continue with my dad after she had "flown the coop." But she was right. After the wedding, Dad pulled back. He was not my main man anymore. Shawn was, on the good days... and on the days that were not so good.
The night before the wedding, my dad told me, "I think you are getting a good husband. I think he truly loves you, and he will work hard to support you and do right by you. I am happy for you." That endorsement was better than any wedding present we received. That was a priceless gift.
Shawn and I have enjoyed a pretty good marriage. We are both believers, and neither of us has ever rebelled against the Lord. Faithfulness and duty have always graced our relationship, even during the times when there was not much else. Shawn has never cheated on me or gone out carousing, and he has always had a good job, working hard to keep us in the black. I, in turn, have put my all into raising his children, and I have been a careful spender. I also try hard to make sure he has clean clothes and decent meals.
But, to be totally honest, there have been tough times. We were young when we got married. We were (and still sometimes are) selfish. We have been slow to learn to put the other person's needs ahead of our own--both of us. Although an outward observer might think we have a charmed life, on the inside it isn't always so magical. When the kids were little and demanding and Shawn was working on advanced degrees... then later when he was travelling extensively and I was often left home alone for a week to deal with a colony of stomach flu or with basic care of four children while my my back and neck were in spasm... there were times when I honestly would have quit this marriage.
Except for my dad. And my mom. I knew that I would not be welcomed home (to their home) if I gave up and quit the hard work of being a wife and mother. I would be given one night's lodging and a fierce admonition to go home (to my home) and do the right thing. So I saved myself the price of every plane ticket I ever fantasized about purchasing.
Over Christmas we met a young couple who have been married for about six months. When the husband found out that we have been married for 21 years, he asked, "What is the secret to a long, successful marriage?" I told him, "Don't quit when it gets tough. You have to set your mind to work through the hard times. There's no such thing as a storybook-perfect, every-day-is-happy marriage. You have to live with the intent to persevere, and in the end you will find joy."
I stand behind that statement. Also, I am thankful to my parents for being more concerned about whether their children did the right thing than whether we were happy every day of our lives. I hope I will have the courage and strength to give my own children the same gift where their future marriages are concerned.