When my grandpa visited last weekend, I asked him what the “secret” was to his 60-plus year marriage to my grandma.
“I made a commitment,” he said, matter-of-factly (“Duh,” the look on his face added, though not unkindly).
That’s nice…I guess…
Don’t get me wrong, I think my grandparents have been happy plenty of the time. They both have a playful sparkle in their eyes and neither of them carries the bent, broken look of someone who worked too hard for too little in return. But I suspect that for them—working class immigrants with five sons—being happy wasn’t always the main focus of life.
Their purpose was something different: work hard, raise your children, take a trip once in awhile, save some money. Do the right thing. Do what’s expected of you.
It’s a common story, not an unhappy one, and one I’m sure many of our grandparents share.
This morning at the cafe, an older couple shared the table next to me. They were quiet, comfortable with not talking much in the way that people who really know each other can be. The woman seemed to be mostly blind and in small ways, her husband took care to tend to her: adjusting a neighboring chair to make room for her cane, adding what I can only imagine was exactly the right amount of milk and sugar (just how she likes it) to her coffee.
It wasn’t so much what he did, but how he did it. With tenderness. He did so largely without speaking, in a way that didn’t infantilize her or make him the hero. It wasn’t glamorous or shiny or showy, but it sure looked a lot like love.
And isn’t that the best? To show up for someone and care for them just as they are?
My grandparents have done the same and so much more for each other, I know it. I just have never been able to be there as an impartial observer, the neighbor at the cafe.
The answer must be yes, of course (duh): they have a great love.
Lindsay Jean Thomson lives and teaches in beautiful San Francisco. She is the Co-Founder of Flex Hour Yoga, a workplace wellness company focused on meeting people where they’re at. Act The Way You Want To Feel is where she writes on cultivating your happiest, fullest life. Today, right this moment, wherever you are in the world: are you leading the life you want to live? Are you acting the way you want to feel?
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Ed: Bryonie Wise