My sweet mother-in-law went to be with Jesus last night. We are grieving, but we are also so grateful for how Roberta Feldhahn graced this earth for 90 years. We are also praying for Jeff’s sweet dad, who is so missing his bride of 65 years.
In honor of Jeff’s mom and dad, and in their own words, here are three key reasons for their long and joyful marriage. These are drawn from an interview I did with them a few years ago, and all of us can learn some great lessons here:
Reason #3: Share it all.
Jeff’s dad told me, “You have to share your thoughts, share the chores, share your food. The guys in the shop would have been all over me if they would have known that I came home and helped out. But you’ve got to do it. Not expect it from the other person but do it for the other person. Whatever needs to be done.”
Jeff came up with this great analogy as he listened to his dad: “It’s like you’re using zone defense instead of man-to-man. In man-to-man you have your guy and your role and you stick with it and you don’t do anything else. If something comes across your path, but it’s not ‘yours’, you don’t do it. But in zone defense, whatever comes into your zone, you pick it up.”
Reason #2: Short accounts.
Jeff’s mom advised the importance of simply keeping short accounts of anything that bugs you; advice she (and the rest of us) found pretty humorous since she’d been dealing with pretty significant short-term memory loss for the last few years.
Jeff’s Mom: “Let things go. Forget about them.”
Jeff’s Dad: “Yep. That’s easier for us, since you forget everything anyway.”
Jeff’s Mom: <Playfully smacking him> “Oh, Bill!”
Me: “Dad!! What a thing to say.”
Jeff’s Dad: <grinning> “It’s okay; she’ll forget it in a few minutes. It’s like having a get-out-of-jail free card. Whenever I mess up, I get a do-over! Which we should all give, I think.”
Reason #1: Serve and Commit – No Matter What
“You’re married. You promised. For better or worse. No matter what.” Jeff’s dad said. “And that’s all there is to it.”
And that is the truth he has lived out for all the years I have known him. As Jeff’s mom dealt with more and more health issues, he stepped up and cared for her. Even when her memory would fail her and she would sometimes get cranky, he would be loving toward her. For years, I have watched him serve her; doing more and more (and eventually all) of the household tasks. He cooked for her. Cleaned the house. Did all the laundry, lawn care and maintenance.He eventually did ever more intimate caregiving for her, exhausting himself to avoid someone else having to come in and do those things for his wife. When his kidneys began to fail, he went to dialysis twice a week, even though it took such a toll on his body at his age, because he wanted to be healthy for her.
I look at my father-in-law, and I don’t just see a good man, a World War II veteran, a twinkly-eyed man of great humor: I see a shining example of what a loving father and husband should be. Just as with my own mom and dad (who just celebrated 50 years), I see a hero.
And in a beautiful 65-year marriage, I see hope. Just an average man and woman who loved each other and made a commitment. And in that commitment, average became amazing.
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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.