The Homefront: When the going gets tough, partners don't budge

Thursday , April 13, 2017 - 5:30 AM


I exist today because of the tenacious character of my dad, coupled with the natural good looks of my mom.

Dad grew up in Utah and Mom grew up in Indiana, 1500 miles apart. So what were the chances of them ever meeting? Extremely remote.

Even when Dad decided to attend Purdue University in Mom's hometown, what were the chances? Based squarely on what could only be described as love at first sight.

That “first sight” happened when Dad, while driving down the street one day, spotted Mom and her sister standing at a bus stop. Being the cheeky university student that he was, he and his friend pulled over and offered them a ride. And being the proper young ladies that they were, they refused.

Not dissuaded, Dad drove on, pulled over, watched the two women board a bus, then followed it until they got off, watched them walk home and memorized the address of their house.

It was a classic case of love via stalking.

Dad went through the phone book — twice — before he found that address. He called the number, and after numerous attempts coupled with an explanation of how he got her number (which had to be flattering), he persuaded Mom to go out with him. T

he rest is history — a history based on more than just a few miracles. Mom's dad, a hot headed descendant of Scottish ancestry, did not approve of the marriage.

(There is, in fact, a persistent family tale that Grandfather peered down the barrel of a gun pointed at my Dad one day, then thought better of it only because he didn’t want to see his daughter widowed at such a young age.)

It seemed prudent for my parents to find a new home town. But with hardly two nickels between them, they were stranded until Dad’s friend decided to buy Dad's car from him, then agreed to drive the two to California with him where they would all make their fortunes.

So Mom and Dad spent their honeymoon riding in an old car formally owned by Dad, driven by his friend, headed to California. Naturally they decided to stop in Utah so Dad could introduce Mom to his family. And that's as far as they got.

Dad's mother loved Mom, Dad realized how much he loved his childhood valley and the fellow who drove the car — deciding he didn't like the West after all — turned around and headed back to Indiana.

It sounds like I made this up, but I didn't. I share it because recently I heard a couple of young people commenting on what an out-dated institution marriage is and how ridiculous it is to think that two people could actually stay together permanently.

I listened, sadly fascinated, as they opined, from their youthful, unmarried status, that it's unnatural for people to stay in just one relationship, especially when things get "tough."

Well, “things” don't get tough. People get tough.

Marriage dishes out difficulties, heart break and a broader array of emotions than any other relationship in life. It tumbles us around, jumbles us up and exhausts us in every way possible. And all that flailing about, crashing into each other is what knocks off our rough edges, carves us into symbiotically connected counterparts, and, over time, molds us into an indestructible unit.

Those with a partner by their side weather the ugly storms that life tosses at them because they grow tough together.

I base that knowledge on watching my never-should-have-met-in-the-first-place, toughed-it-out-through-unimaginable-challenges parents. They had a rocky start; many young couples do.

But the glue that held them together was an unyielding bond of complete commitment to one another coupled with selfless love.

Eight children, seven homes, dozens of grandkids and one owner-operated business later, my parents celebrate their 68th anniversary this year. Mom celebrates it on this side of the veil; Dad passed away 14 years ago. But they're as married as ever; she knows that. And it's only a matter of time before they're together again. She also knows that.

So to my young, uninformed friends I say: When the going gets tough, the tough don’t move an inch. They grasp onto one another a little tighter, reconfirm their commitment and thank heaven for the tough times that make them stronger.

That’s the power of complete commitment and selfless love.

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