In a small town in Iowa there is a rose bush that blooms behind a white farmhouse. For the past 67 years on the same day in June, my grandfather has cut from it a rose to give to my grandmother on their wedding anniversary. This year the pink bloom drank water from a vase on the sill of a window in their retirement home. My mother picked it and brought it into town since my grandfather, once so farm-tanned and stubborn-strong, is now too feeble for picking roses.
I’ve always admired their love. My grandpa at the age of 91 still gushes compliments about my grandmother, whom he calls “a jewel.” My grandma cares for him tirelessly.
They lived life together on the farm for many years, daily routines determined by the many chores and needs of the animals and the crops. But I think that their secret was that no matter how busy they were, they always started the day off with some special time together.
Each morning they would rise early to read the Bible together and pray. As newlyweds in the 1950s they started this habit, and it has continued to this day. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of hearing the floorboards in their house creak around 5 a.m. and knowing that it was Grandma and Grandpa getting up for their morning prayer time. I’d hear my Grandpa read a short devotion in a warbling voice, and then they’d pray, listing each of us grandchildren by name in their petition.
In my own marriage, there are times when my husband David and I feel like two ships passing in the night. During one of those seasons, I read the book, Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart. My takeaway was that we needed to spend more quality time together and that we needed to be intentional about it, even if it is just a fifteen minute heart-to-heart in the evening before bed. I thought of my grandparents’ legacy and how even a few minutes, devoted consistently, can become incredibly meaningful in a marriage.
So my husband and I made the goal of stopping work by 9:00 p.m. each night in order to talk and relax together. He’ll grab a beer, I’ll drink an Izze, and we’ll pop some popcorn on the stove while we talk. We might read—separately or together—the newspaper, a novel, a magazine. Or if we are behind on chores, we might turn on Netflix while we do dishes or fold laundry together.
Like I Believe in Love storyteller Victoria, who wrote about the “porch time” she and her husband share each night, David and I are finding that this time together each night is the highlight of our day and gives us both something to look forward to each night. And taking a cue from my grandparents, we also try to say a prayer together before crawling into bed.
I’ve watched and admired my grandparents’ marriage for many years. Now it is our turn to create the habits that help love to grow. Like the roses picked each June, it is not the grand gestures of love that matter as much as steadily making time for each other.