Happy 50 Years of Marriage, Mom + Dad
Dear Mom and Dad,
Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary! I love you two. So much. You have lived so much life and so much of it together. More together than apart. I wish I could go back in time even before I was born and see you two in high school in Chicago…before college and marriage and careers and kids (and, let’s face it…lots and lots of dogs) filled your lives.
From the stories I hear about dad, high school was a testing ground…could he survive his teens while being both a cool, good-looking, tough guy and a tender-hearted poet and devoted Christian? And what about mom, with her quiet, studious persona, a true beauty and gentle spirit? I like to think that when you met in high school you just knew one another was your person. I like that from what I hear, you two just knew you were each other’s and even when going off to separate colleges and maybe even dating other people, that you two together was the plan all along. And there was no drama. There was no breaking up and getting back together and tears and accusations and meanness. No, not you two.
It always seems from your pictures and your stories that what you always have as the foundation of your relationship is respect and a calm knowing. I think you have it even now…fifty plus years later when you’re going through your days. There is no yelling or insults or rage. You two have this incredible respect that has been the greatest garden you’ve ever tended. And you two have tended hundreds of gardens over your 50-year marriage. Because from that first garden so much has grown up: Jennifer, Peter, me. But also, your love for Jesus and your love of people and your care for the earth and your insatiable need to read every book ever written.
I know there may be some Scrabble competitions that still have you wondering if the other tallied their score correctly and you might question the other’s way of remembering events and perhaps there are some items of yours that the other has broken or lost. And I know not every gift for every birthday or Christmas or anniversary has wowed or impressed or been right. But, in the end, does that really matter? No. Not when you get to return to that incredible garden you planted together—perhaps even unknowingly you were plotting the land in your hearts way back at Calumet High School.
Because that garden…of allllll your many gardens (the ones dad magically creates in an afternoon, the one mom starts on the side of the house, the massive tilled up earth for a vegetable bed, the kitchen garden planted in haste, the shade garden known only to a few, the daylily garden thick with waxy petals) that first garden where you planted respect is the greatest gift to this world. The soil is perfect…not too sandy like in Ham Lake, not too clay-packed like in Kentucky. It is the perfect kind of loamy soil you always wish for. It is the best place to really dig your fingers in and return to life with that soil embedded in your fingerprints. All those life moments are right there in that garden.
Some of the most memorable things happen in gardens, don’t they? The Garden of Eden, of course. Jesus going to be alone in a garden to pray. I think of grandmother on her knees in our gardens pulling up weeds at 6:00am on a Saturday. I remember chickens poking around our garden in Ham Lake. I worked Rice Creek Gardens and loved having you two show up to admire my work in the fields. We visited Common Harvest Farm where Jennifer and Kent and Peter worked and loved and lived. Your physical gardens are still thriving even after you’ve left. Ham Lake will always have a remnant of your gardening there and Kentucky will have generations of the plants you nurtured curling up through the clay year after year. And even now, back in Minnesota, the earth is so happy to have you two back and loving it.
But I’m not just talking about the physical gardens that have reaped so much bounty they’ve covered dinner tables and filled vases for decades. I’m talking about the garden of your love and family. Here we all are—the fruits of the greatest garden you’ve ever tended. I have these amazing children thanks to your garden. I get to watch Gloria and Harold spin up into these incredible humans thanks to your tending to me and nurturing me and keeping me free of weeds and in full sun. Jennifer and Kent get to grow into this incredible couple with bodies and actions devoted to following The Way of Jesus because you encouraged that growth from when her seed first was planted. And because you cared and thought ahead and loved unconditionally this great garden, Peter has grown into a thoughtful, tender, hilarious man with an ever-widening group of creative, intelligent friends. And me…and my marriage to Darren…you may not have known the wildflower you chose when you introduced me to your garden…but as the third and final child for you, I’m glad you took the risk and planted me anyway because now I have a marriage and a husband worth fighting off the weeds that want to encroach.
Thank you for teaching me how to plant and tend a good garden.
I love you. I love that you’re together, that you took the risk to marry each other. And you stayed together. You took the harder path to join your lives because you declared to the world 50 years ago that you are willing to have your feelings hurt and your thoughts challenged, and your energy sapped by aligning with another person. Who does that? The greatest people. But vowing to be each other’s also meant you were willing to let your heart surge with love, that you were open to unimaginable gifts and that you could venture into each day (all 18,250 of them) knowing you have a partner who respects and loves you, despite it all.
I want what you have. I want a 50-year old garden of respect that challenges me and breaks my heart with love and has me in awe of the abundance this life has ready for us, if only we are willing to welcome it each morning. I love being part of your garden. Thank you for choosing each other and for growing me.
I love you two. Happy 50 years of gardening.