Fifty Years of Wedded . . . Well, It’s Not Bliss, I Know That!

When my children were little, I used to make a tuna casserole that they absolutely loved. It was one of those surefire meals I pulled out once a week that always drew raves and clean plates. One day, my daughter asked to help me make it. She was around six.
As I poured in the first few ingredients, she started to scowl. Then as I opened and drained the can of tuna she howled with disgust. “What is all this stuff?”
I knew I had explained each ingredient as I put it in the bowl so I asked, “Why? What’s wrong?”

“I didn’t know all this junk was in it. It looks terrible and it smells bad.” She pinched her little nose.

“This is what it always looks like before it’s done. You’ll see once it’s baked. You love this dish.” I was starting to get a bad feeling.

Hannah was already shaking her head. “No way. I can never eat tuna casserole again!”

That was the day I learned a couple of things. First, definitely avoid discussion of where my daughter’s meat comes from until she’s older and second, not everyone can handle seeing what goes in to making something great.

Like marriage.

This week-end, my parents are away celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They have been together since my mom was fifteen. Typical of other couples in the late fifties and early sixties, they married a week after mom graduated from high school and I was born before their first anniversary when mom was eighteen. Dad was twenty-four, fresh from a stint in the Marines and,back then, earning a living as a carpenter to support his new little family.

Two and a half years later my brother was born and dad built us a house in the small Rhode Island town where he’d grown up. He worked at carpentry and volunteered as a fire fighter, becoming chief when I was still a toddler. My mom stayed home and raised us.

Now Loren and I are grown with families of our own and Mom and Dad celebrate fifty years of marriage. Dad’s still an active fire chief – has done it full-time for more than two decades now. Mom’s managed medical offices over the years. They have five grandchildren. It’s a beautiful story.

Well, it is now.

Telling the beginning of mom and dad’s story is like gathering the ingredients for tuna casserole and arranging them side by side on the clean kitchen counter. Telling the fiftieth anniversary part of their story is like serving the casserole, steaming and fragrant from the oven. But there were fifty years in between those two times that were full of broken eggs, smelly tuna and spilled milk – enough to make anyone around them pinch their noses and shrink back exclaiming “What’s all this stuff? I didn’t know this is what went into a life-long marriage. There’s no way I’m getting involved with any of that!”

My parents’ marriage endured the psychedelic sixties, the disillusioned seventies, the greed-driven eighties, the panicked nineties, and the terror-filled first decade of the new millennium. There were years of bliss, years of brokenness, years together, and years apart. There were sadness’s and celebrations, adventures and accusations, laughter that filled the air and glass plates that flew across the room. There have been fists pounded on tables and fists raised in determination to make marriage work.

The odds against my parents’ marriage lasting were significant. Besides the times they live in, there’s a family tree full of craziness. All of my grandparents divorced. My father’s parents split and my mother’s parents split. Statistically, that set that stage for generations of marital divide.

My parents’ marriage almost didn’t make it but today they are off together enjoying mountains that have endured the test of time just like their relationship. The battle they waged to stay together gave my marriage a fighting chance and my children’s future spouses now have statistical hope.

There have been tough times in my own twenty-two year marriage. Times when I wanted to give up. But I’ve witnessed what goes into a life-long marriage. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it smells really bad. But that’s the process. That’s what it takes. It’s not meant to be pretty – in the end,  it’s meant to nourish a family.

I will always be grateful to my mom and dad for making love work. They wed in the decade of “Make Love Not War.” They know the secret is that sometimes love IS war but it’s a war worth fighting.

And behind the scenes always, there was a daughter praying – waging war in the spiritual realm.  And then there was a wife praying – another soldier in the battle. And then there was a husband praying – a unit now against the evil forces that seek to destroy.  And then there were praying sons-in-law and daughters-in-law and hopefully soon grandchildren who will grow to be prayer warriors, because that’s what it takes.

Happy Anniversary, Fred and Sylvia. You are my heroes, the dynamic duo of marriage, the A-team of wedded bliss. Here’s to another decade or two. Who knows what further adventures await?

Frederick A. Stanley and Sylvia K Stanley  June 18, 1960 – June 18, 2010 and beyond!

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    The Conversation

  1. WhiteStone says:

    Tuna casserole! What a funny (and sometimes true) analogy to marriage.

    Yes, marriage can have its deep, heavy struggles. But in looking back I seldom think anymore of those hard times…at this end of it you look back with gratefulness that the two of you survive!

    Happy Anniversary to Fed and Sylvia!

  2. I think it’s the good and bad through the years that are the lessons for the children. So that when they are married, they can say “Ah ha! My parents went through this and still believed in love, I think I can, too.” Love that verse in Peter that says leaders are examples to the flock. It doesn’t say good examples all the time… 😉 Glad to know my smelly tuna will be used to make a nice casserole for my children someday.

    Happy Anniversary Fred & Sylvia! Thanks for giving us hope!

  3. Karin says:

    You have a delightful way of bringing home a story! Happy Anniversary to your folks! How happy are tested Christians—— later. Charles Spurgeon

  4. Eileen says:

    Happy Anniversary Fred and Sylvia from your ‘other’ daughter. All my love

  5. Thanks, I needed this!

  6. That is such a great analogy! Congratulations to your parents.

  7. I’m right there with you on that, Whitestone!

  8. I probably should have edited the cassarole to something less smelly than tuna but it works. Many, many times I’ve thought – my parents have survived, I can survive, Karen.

  9. Great quote. Thank you, Karin, you uplift with every comment.

  10. Eileen, I’ll pass it on to them!

  11. Thanks for dropping by, Kelly!

  12. Carmen says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t call this post, “Life is like a smelly tuna casserole.” Too predictable I guess! Love the analogy, and Happy Anniversary to Fred and Sylvia! 🙂

  13. Nardalyn says:

    A good word, Lori. Congrats to your parents!

  14. Mike W. says:

    Lori ~ This is terrific, thank you!

    Doreen and I will be celebrating our 25th next month and with kids still at home and life still very much in flux, we can see the casserole taking shape, but the tuna isn’t fully cooked yet, so the (ahem) “aroma” is still with us. 😉

    Howe’er, in reading this I am refreshed and re-inspired…and, the first cup o’ coffee hasn’t even kicked-in yet!

    Blessings ~ M.

  15. I could not have lived with that title, Carmen! I’d never have been able to read my own post! Maybe I should have changed it to lasagna.

  16. Thank, Narda. I’ll pass it on!

  17. I’m still laughing, Mike! Enjoy your coffee and know that it gets fishy up here on the East Coast occasionally, too! 🙂

  18. Cheri says:

    Beautiful tribute, Lori. I can relate so well. My own parents beat the odds, and they have been such a testimony to me in my life, to make marriage work. Some days may look like an unbaked tuna casserole… and those times in God’s oven, the baking times, they can be difficult, but it’s worth it in the end!


  19. I know I’m late reading this, but it is such a wonderful tribute to your parents and to marriage! I would love to share it!

  20. Hi! You’re absolutely free to share what you find here!I just appreciate you crediting me or the blog. Welcome!

  21. sheri says:

    Don’t know how I’ve missed reading this blog about your parents 50th Anniversary of ‘Wedded Bliss and Stinky Tuna Casserole’…
    I enjoyed it and thanks for sharing emotions that run deep, wide, long and intense.
    Congrats to your parents for making the sacrifices for this milestone…