My grandparents were married for 60 years before the passing of my grandfather in 1987. I know you never read characterizations like this in the newspaper announcements about 60th anniversaries, but frankly, my grandparents had a terrible marriage. My mom said that even as a devout Catholic kid in the 40’s, she had concluded that her parents should get a divorce.

But they didn’t. They were children of Italian immigrants who settled in the Renton and Black Diamond, Washington. Their fathers worked the coal mines. Both of my grandparents were highly intelligent people. My grandfather graduated from high school, which was quite an achievement. First generation immigrant girls were expected to go to work instead of high school so my grandmother did just that after completing the 8th grade. My grandma was 17 and my grandfather 21 when they married. They had their first five children in seven years and then a sixth child 14 years later. Imagine giving birth to your first child at the start of the Great Depression and your last child a few years after the end of World War II!

I grew up in a house about two miles from my grandparents. I saw them a lot. This was mostly a very good thing. However, they argued a GREAT deal. Many arguments were beyond ridiculous. By the time I was a kid, my grandparents no longer vacationed together. My grandmother regularly flew to Hawaii to see their daughter, Judy. My grandmother loved Don Ho, yes the Hawaiian lounge singer of “Tiny Bubbles” fame. She went to his shows. Apparently, he used to call the grandmothers up on the stage to take photos with him, kissing them on the cheek. My grandmother, always up for a brush with celebrity, got her picture taken. (Remember, this is the same woman who got in trouble for calmly stepping over the velvet rope barricade in order to try to shake the hand of Prince Phillip, who was visiting the Seattle area. My mom and her sisters figured out what had occurred when they read a headline in the local paper, “Woman with shopping bag accosts Prince Philip.”)

Anyway, my grandfather was insanely jealous of the corny picture my grandmother took with Don Ho! They argued about it for YEARS! See, I told you that they had ridiculous arguments. We once visited their house on one of their anniversaries. My grandmother got angry with my grandfather and in the heat of the argument she exclaimed, “57 years, married to the wrong man!”

But this post is not about my grandparents’ marriage, may they rest in peace. Yesterday, my dear parents celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. My parents have a quite happy marriage. They met on a blind date. My dad and my mother’s brother were stationed in the Coast Guard together in Seattle. My uncle set my parents up on a date and they only stopped dating to get married on Thanksgiving Day in 1954. They married on a major holiday because my grandparents did not want to close their retail business for an extra day. My uncle (the same one who set up my parents), likewise married on Memorial Day. For their wedding, a full Thanksgiving dinner was served. The bridesmaids wore gowns, each in a different fall hue. Too bad the pictures are in black and white. My mom’s wedding gown was beautiful. She brought a picture out of a magazine to a seamstress who tailor made it for her for $50.

Truth be told, my parents sometimes argue about ridiculous things. This is actually kind of reassuring to me because my husband of nearly 23 years and I also have stupid arguments. My parents also share a lot. They love to hike and travel. They love their family. They love their beautiful home in the woods. They share strong religious beliefs and are active in their church.

They have a true love match and I am both so happy for and inspired by them.

Joe and Martha MacKenzie, Thanksgiving 2010