Once in a while I have the opportunity to use this column as a platform to note significant events in my life. This is such an occasion. On Tuesday, my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Please bear with me as I wax personal for a moment.
We met in a cemetery. That’s not quite as grim as it sounds. The town in which we lived had put aside a large tract of land for burial purposes, but only a small corner had been used. The rest was maintained as a vast and lovely park where people were permitted to run their dogs. My Alaskan Malamute didn’t get along with other dogs very well; but for some reason (Divine hand?) she got along splendidly with Don’s yellow lab, so we started walking our dogs together. The rest – specifically May 26, 1990 – is history.
Together we embarked on a life radically different than the normal, predictable lifestyle most young couples anticipate. Two years into our marriage, it took a massive Sacramento traffic jam to make us realize we didn’t want to live in the city, so we gritted our teeth and bought a fixer-upper (ahem: a shack) on four acres in rural southwest Oregon on the excuse of sending me to graduate school. Being young and naïve, we didn’t anticipate any problem finding work, so we blithely left behind two well-paying jobs, moved six hours north, and entered the new and exciting world of unemployment.
And what a world it was. Don decided to leave his professional credentials behind and fulfill a dream of starting a woodcraft business from home. Through the next 10 years and the subsequent birth of our two daughters, we eked out a precarious existence, always on the edge of financial disaster. Money troubles tear many couples apart, but the struggles and hardships of our first 10 years together bound us closer together.
Since we lived and worked together 24/7, we became far tighter as a couple than most people ever experience. Together we launched our business. Together we built a small farm. Together we raised two beautiful daughters. Together we homeschooled. Together we rediscovered our faith. Together we climbed out of the abyss of debt we had flung ourselves into. Together we moved to Idaho in 2003 and began the process of creating a self-sufficient homestead.
It hasn’t all been rainbows and moonbeams, of course. Like any couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve handled emergencies, setbacks, misunderstandings and challenges. But the one thing that has never, ever been in question is our love for each other and our devotion to our marital vows. While we’ve often disagreed, I can count on one hand how many fights we’ve had.
So where are we now, 25 years later? Don’s beard is going gray. I have long streaks of gray in my hair as well. We’re pudgier than we were a quarter-century ago. Our bodies are no longer the finely-honed machines they once were. As we face the increasing challenges of middle age, we try to walk and exercise together. Much of the food we eat – milk, eggs, beef, vegetables, fruit – come from our own farm.
As a family we do nearly everything together. Our daughters are now 17 and 19, and the oldest will be leaving us shortly, so we’re enjoying her while we can. Unquestionably, our girls have been the greatest blessings of our union.
Don and I talk endlessly together – discussing news issues, family plans, reading or writing materials, future goals, or neighborhood interests. Or we’re silent together, each occupied with work or reading or music. Or we’ll do projects together – fencing, moving cattle, property maintenance, construction, clean-up. Or we’ll do projects separately – he’ll be working in the shop, I’ll be canning in the kitchen. Since we work at home, our days flow seamlessly with a mixture of business and personal, of work and leisure, but always togetherness.
On the whole we’re extremely healthy, and to that I attribute a great deal to our peaceful existence. We have no marital strife, no teenage angst, no bickering or arguing among ourselves. We are blessed with a unity of mind that spreads to a generally healthy existence. Because we’ve cultivated our work at home, we don’t have to face the stress of long commutes. If the weather is bad – and in north Idaho, it certainly can be – we throw another log in the woodstove and settle in with our books.
To all this contentment, I give credit and thanks to God. His divine hand has blessed me to be my husband’s helpmeet in the true biblical sense. Early in our marriage we were lax and casual in our approach to religion, but slowly – as is often God’s way – He brought us back to Him and allowed us to experience the peace that passeth all understanding.
A few months ago I wrote a column called ““1 key to having a successful marriage” in which I quoted a cynical psychologist who was certain marriage is a dying institution. Specifically he wrote, “Well, I’m not certain marriage ever did suit most people who tried it. From what I hear in my psychiatry office, and from what I hear from other psychiatrists and psychologists, and from what my friends and relatives tell me and show me through their behavior, and from the fact that most marriages end either in divorce or acrimony, marriage is (as it has been for decades now) a source of real suffering for the vast majority of married people. To go further, I would venture that 90 percent of the married patients I speak with would rank their marriages in the top two stressors in their lives, while only 10 percent would rank their marriages as one of the top two sources of strength in their lives.”
This guy is full of noodles. Granted I tend to see things through the lens of my own happy experience, but I believe marriage is one of the best-kept secrets in the world. To be joined with a compatible spouse and spend a lifetime building a foundation of solid rock beneath one’s feet is a remarkable thing.
And the best part? A solid foundation blesses subsequent generations. My parents will celebrate their 57th anniversary in a few months. Their example of unity set the stage for my own marriage, which I pray will set the stage for future marital happiness for our daughters, and so on down the generations.
In short, I want to use this column as an instrument to thank my husband for 25 wonderful years together, and greedily pray for another 35 or 40 years with him. He’s that wonderful.
Media wishing to interview Patrice Lewis, please contact [email protected].