I look back over the last 46 plus years and wonder, "What in Heaven's name made us think our marriage would work?" It had to be the miracle of grace! We were (and are) as different as day and night; one from the city, one from the country; one grounded in science and what the eye could see, one in philosophy and things beyond sight. Certainly our parents were hesitant and baffled. But we were smiling, armed with our 6 week marriage prep course, our church wedding and love to last a lifetime.
Somewhere between changing diapers on our fourth baby and waiting for a quiet moment for us to talk, we became aware, each in our own way, that we were disillusioned. I recall sending a quiet but desperate prayer saying, "Lord something isn't right here and we could use some help!" It was hard to fathom that just a few days later a friend called asking if I wanted to attend a talk on Marriage Encounter, a weekend to make good marriages great. I jumped at the chance, knowing this was for "good" marriages but not at all really sure we qualified under that. We went and the weekend and following involvement was a turning point for us. We got involved with other couples wanting to work on their relationship, improve their communication, and believing that God had a plan for their marriage. What a concept! We didn't understand everything at once, but gradually things sunk in. The more we learned and used the techniques, the more we grew. It was work, but somehow the benefits outweighed the labor.
Daily life continued with 5 kids, who grew into teen challenges and the rest of life presented struggles with job loss and moves. We argued, anguished, continued to pray and communicate and forged ahead. Our faith seemed to grow, our love of community grew and we took hold of new horizons in the Charismatic prayer groups and Cursillo, all the while sharing, listening and learning how to manage marriage..... We struggled with parenting, wondering if our involvement was too much for our children, trying to balance both and be the parents God called us to be. We stumbled for sure; no one gets a good enough course on parenting and we only get one shot, no "do overs".
We went through second job loss and in the midst of that, I went to work. I came home one day to a somber husband who reluctantly said the doctor thought he had leukemia. I thought we had crashed into a cement wall and somehow survived, sustained by our church community and the belief that God was somehow with us in this. Prayers and excellent medical care brought Frank through the bone marrow transplant and our caring community of God nurtured this battle worn couple. And just when we thought we had reached the other side, home free, our oldest son, while fishing one afternoon, was suddenly taken to God.
What happened to that optimistic couple, flying on the coat tails of love on a sunny June day in 1965? We are still here, still optimistic, and still challenged by health and daily struggle. We found the rudder God provided in our Sacrament and our Church. We continue to learn the obstacle to our marriage is when we fail to listen and reach out to each other and when we think "what about me" instead of "what about you"!
We learn over and over that love isn't a feeling, it is a decision to reach out to the other and care. It is as simple and as painstakingly difficult as that. The rewards are immeasurable, no matter what the else comes our way and we feel blessed to hear our children say, "We want a marriage relationship like you and Dad!"