41 years!

41 years ago tomorrow, October 19, my parents walked down the aisle of the First Baptist Church in Douglasville and vowed to love each other in sickness and health and good times and bad. I do not know of another couple whose marriage has endured each part of the marriage vows on the grand scale that theirs has. I imagine there was some speculation in the days leading up to their wedding as to whether their short courtship and different backgrounds would be enough to last 41 days, much less 41 years! In honor of them, I have composed a list of 41 things that I believe have made those vows so easy to live out.

Proof that Daddy had brown hair at some point in his life.

Proof that Daddy had brown hair at some point in his life.

  1. They had vastly different childhoods. In many cases, this is a set-up for matrimonial disaster, but for them, they used their backgrounds as the basis for how they wanted to raise their own families.
  2. My dad says he was not even sure if he loved Mom when they got married. I think he loved her, but what he means to say is that he had no idea how strong and deep his love would grow for her.
  3. They both outkicked their coverage. (This is a football reference, Dad. Mom will explain it.) On paper, this would have only seemed true about my dad. The nerdy, weird dude who lived in the funeral home in high school married the head cheerleader, popular, All-American girl. If people had paid attention, they would have seen that my dad worked for EVERY thing he had at the time. They would have seen the enormous heart and his big dreams of doing more. They would have seen that my mom was marrying the biggest catch in Douglasville.
  4. They started off their marriage with little money. Mom had a chip of an engagement ring (sorry,Dad), they could only afford a few days in Gatlinburg for a honeymoon,and they spent their weekend nights having spelling contests out of a dictionary because they couldn’t afford anything more. No flashy things to distract them, they had to just spend time together.
  5. They know that, “It takes a village.” Long before Mrs. Clinton penned the phrase in her book, my parents recognized that they needed more than just each other to strengthen their marriage and to help their parenting. We were raised to love our family friends as our family, and we knew that we had extra parents and siblings who we could count on. (Still do, in fact.)
  6. My mom gave up her career so that my dad could pursue his. She has never been bitter or resentful of this. Truthfully, I’m sure she was a great teacher, but there is no person alive who could “outmom” her.
  7. The only thing that my dad could say that drive him crazy about my mom is that she rattles the ice in an empty glass.
  8. They went to church.
  9. They taught Sunday School together.
  10. Mom and Dad have couple friends. 
  11. Mom has her own set of friends. Mom has always cherished her lunches at Spyro, girls’ trips to New York, mountain trips, beach trips, and Atlanta jaunts.
  12. Dad has his set of guy friends. From Sunday night “prayer meetings” at the farm, to ski trips with the boys, Dad spends time with his dudes…..Usually reading a Southern Living magazine and doing the cooking.
  13. They both encouraged each other to spend time with their friends. No permissions or explanations needed.
  14. Dad’s mom died when he was 10. Yet another thing that could make their relationship rocky. However, it just caused Dad to appreciate my Mom for the important role she played in our lives.
  15. Dad made sure that we didn’t take Mom for granted, and if we did, he made sure we regretted it. Wayne fully subscribes to the theory,”If Mama ain’t happy,ain’t nobody happy.”
  16. They laugh…. at themselves, at each other, at us, at life.
  17. They love each other more than they love us. Mom wouldn’t admit that, but Dad never hesitates to tell us that he loves Mom more.
  18. They forgive easily. I can think of only a handful of occasions that my parents have had a legitimate argument. It never lasts long, and it usually only fuels the fodder for our jokes later.
  19. They protect each other.
  20. Mom let Daddy go through his mid-life crises. These ranged from running to bike-riding to motorcycles to airplanes to NASCAR races. Patience. Of. JOB.
  21. Mom was the antithesis of a politician’s wife. No Chanel suits and silence behind the man. She supported him 1,000% by being our mom. She went to events and the like, but she was real and bubbly,and everyone appreciated that about her.
  22. Specific roles: Mom tried to hide her nervousness at my doctor’s appointments with idle chit chat. Dad hid his nervousness by cracking jokes and messing with all of the medical equipment.
  23. Specific roles: Mom did all of the overnight hospital stays. Dad came in to entertain, and took care of Mom when we came home.
  24. Specific roles: Dad enjoys a cocktail or two. Mom drives.
  25. Specific roles: Mom and I would bring our bags from shopping sprees in to the house in small, incremental doses. Dad pretended not to notice.
  26. Specific roles: Dad did the cooking for the tailgates while Mom went to the game.
  27. Specific roles: Dad handled blood, teeth, and broken bones. Mom handled vomit.
  28. Vague roles: They kept us on our toes switching between good cop and bad cop.
  29. They took time for each other. During my middle school years, Dad was the busiest ever with work. Between running a funeral home in another town and his job at the Parole Board, he was burning the candle at both ends. Saturdays were their days. We were left to fend for ourselves with a sitter.
  30. They did not put pressure on us to be straight A students or collegiate athletes. They modeled high expectations for us. However, they never put pressure on us, which means there was no blaming of the other when we failed. Only love and encouragement.
  31. Daddy found Mama a baby. Truth be told,the whole, “we need three kids” thing was my Mom’s deal. I don’t know that Dad felt the deep maternal yearning that she felt, but he made it happen. Ironically, he loved Molly most. She  made him the happiest.
  32. They both built relationships with all three of their kids independent of each other and the siblings. We all spent one on one time with both of our parents.
  33. They read a lot.
  34. They get scared when the other is sick. I’ll never forget the look of relief on my Dad’s face when he came to check me out of school in 6th grade the day Mama had to have a breast biopsy. He was the happiest man alive. My moms sobs as she told our preacher of Dad’s cancer diagnosis left an indelible mark on my soul.
  35. They are both the most generous people alive. They never have to ask forgiveness or permission for volunteering each other’s services or resources to help ease a stranger’s burden.
  36. They are both kind. They never have to question each other’s motives or intentions, because they both know that the core of each is an innate kindness that is incredibly rare.
  37. They found a way to survive losing a child. I’ll be honest. In the immediate aftermath of Molly’s death, I was uncertain that their rock solid foundation could survive this seismic attack. They have tackled this pain just as they have the other obstacles in their marriage. They turned to each other and put the other’s comfort and happiness before their own. On their 35th anniversary, I was certain their marriage could not get any stronger. In the last 6 years, I have watched a protected fortress turn into a castle of steel.
  38. They allow the other to grieve.
  39. They promised each other that for the rest of their lives, they never had to do anything that they just couldn’t do in terms of missing Molly.
  40. They don’t sweat the small stuff.
  41. They never hang up the phone with each other, or with us, without saying, “I love you.” But, more importantly they show each other every day that their love is stronger than 41 years, 3 kids, lots of illnesses, innumerable good times, and everything in between

If these two hadn’t made the conscious decision to forsake all others 41 years ago, MollyROCK would not be.  Perhaps that means that I wouldn’t know the heartache that fuels this fledgling organization. But, that would also mean that I would not know what it means to be strong. I wouldn’t know how it felt to be loved more than anything despite all of my shortcomings. I wouldn’t know that laughter is always appropriate. I wouldn’t know that family means much more than genetics. I wouldn’t know that I was one of the lucky few who had parents who truly loved each other. I wouldn’t know that life was worth the pain if you have a family who lightens the load. I am so lucky  Thank you for making the choice every day to love each other more than us.

More than meat loves salt,

EGG

momdadmollymomdadgrifinmemomanddad

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9 comments

  1. Carolyn Camp · October 18, 2015

    Emily thank you for sharing your celebration I of your mom and dad’s anniversary. I went to high school with your dad he and my brother were friends and your mom was my oldest son 2nd grade teacher, SHE WAS GREAT. So please give them my love and congratulations.

    Like

  2. Brooke Dowdy · October 18, 2015

    Absolutely beautiful words. Your post is so heartfelt and I’m sure your parents could not be more touched by it. As a mom their is nothing more gratifying than compliments about you being a mom, or good parenting. I’m sure your public appreciation and love for them means so much to them. You do have a wonderful family, my Mom and Grandmother think so highly of them. Thanks for sharing your story and I will start following your blog. MollyROCK1120 sounds like a very inspiring blog/foundation.
    Good luck in your indevors with this.

    Like

    • egraygarner · October 19, 2015

      Thank you, Brooke! If we can prevent Molly’s tragedy from repeating once, it will be worth it! We can’t thank you enough for the support!

      Like

  3. Brooke Dowdy · October 18, 2015

    Reblogged this on Something to Chalk About and commented:
    Beautiful written and so heartfelt, the most gratifying feeling for a mom and parent is your family complimenting and showing there appreciation for how wonderful you are a being a mom or a parent (s). They I’m sure are proud of you EGG. Love your blog, it’s absolutely beautiful and inspiring. You will do big things with these open experiences you are sharing. Good luck to you.

    Like

  4. Ollie Pendley · October 18, 2015

    Emily thank you so much for sharing this. So much of this I wttnessed . Love your all as if you are my own. From your surgeries, Griffin’s accident, and when I knew they were destined to spend their lives together was when your a Dad broke his leg in a Sunday afternoon football game . He was in Cobb Gen and I gooertocheck on him and Gerriwasthertsking care of him. Love you all .

    Like

  5. bubbles · October 19, 2015

    your short comings are more than made up for by your long comings!

    keep on rocking! 💋❌

    Like

  6. Anne Davis · October 21, 2015

    Emily, I can totally relate to what you wrote. My mom and dad were married for over 60 years. They adored each other and were each other’s best friend. I hosted a 50th anniversary party for them, and Mom and I had lunch that afternoon. I asked Mom, “what do you attribute your long and happy marriage?” Me being the romantic that I am, thought she would say something lovey-dovey. Her answer was “we always supported each other”. She went on to explain that no matter if there was a subject one of them had to discuss with the other, to help make a decision – whether it was buying something, what kind of discipline was going to be given to me – my brother never did anything wrong – I was in trouble all the time – they backed each other up, if one of them had made a decision – even if they didn’t agree with the decision. They were a fortress.

    I remember asking my brother if he ever remembered them arguing or fighting. He said no. I agreed. It’s hard to live up to something like that. They were both jokers and loved to laugh. I have the best picture of them at their 50th anniversary party, where they are toasting each other, and really laughing about something, and that picture painted the two of them. They just loved and enjoyed the hell out of each other. Bless you and your family, Honey – you all are the best! Love you!

    Like

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