By Mischa Ledder
There is a beauty when marriage endures the test of time, when even after sixty-one years the spark is still there. How does one hold onto such love? As difficult seasons roll in, how do couples make it through? Is there a secret to a successful marriage?
I’m not saying this article has answers, but as I sat in the living room of Margaret and Zane Dory, both in their mid-80’s, I got to witness the deep love and respect they had for each other. Hopefully, we can glean from their story because in Margaret’s words, “Sixty-one years is a long time. We have been married longer than most people are old.” Indeed, what an accomplishment. If you have the privilege of talking to a couple who has been married a long time, take advantage of it. Sit down and ask them their story.
For Margaret and Zane, it all started as a blind date in Fresno, California. Their friends brought them together. Upon ending the interview Margaret made me laugh with the comment, “I still haven’t forgiven them for that blind date.” It was clear that was far from the truth. Her sarcasm was rich. I asked Zane what he thought of Margaret when they first met. He said, “I didn’t see anything that was phony or fake about her you know, and I decided hmm…let’s see what we can do about this.” He looked like a mischievous school boy in love as he said it. Margaret at the time wasn’t interested in a permanent relationship, so it took Zane two years of pursuit. Before heading up to his grandparents’ house to celebrate their 50th anniversary, he proposed. His grandparents were old school and he knew if they were going to the party, they were going engaged. She obliged and that first blind date called “a coke date” back in their day toppled into their first family purchase, a house for a whopping 9,800 dollars.
Commitment is what it came down to for Zane. The ability to think about marriage before you commit and know there is no quitting. He knew no marriage is trouble free, but they would always find a way to work out their problems. They both went into the marriage with the mindset there is always a solution to a problem and divorce was not the solution.
The decades that followed their marriage were not always easy. Zane got transferred to Oklahoma. It was a traumatic event for Margaret to leave her family and friends. Their first two of their three children were born in Oklahoma City and Margret informed me, “The thing that we didn’t have, that a lot of our friends had, was their parents. It was just Zane and I. When Zane got home from work we would fix dinner and he always bathed the kids and helped put them to bed. We depended on each other for raising our kids.” That they did.
It was evident they were both present parents. During the interview their daughter called and Zane informed me she called her mom every day. Their dedication as parents became even more evident as they told me the story of what brought them from Iowa to Colorado. Their son John called them up and said he was going to buy a house with a produce farm on it and needed their help to pull it off. Their friends thought they were crazy to pick up their lives and move to Colorado, but they traded their big house in Iowa for an addition built off their son’s house, which also came with six grandchildren. They really downsized but knew it was not things that they needed. The thing needed is family and their family had always been one that supported each other, and their children grew up seeing relationships meant something.
I was also struck by the amount of humor Zane and Margaret displayed, both in the present moment with jokes and sarcasm, but also in the way they reminisced on their past and I think this is key. They held no grudges, there was no bitterness or resentment, they truly viewed each other and past actions in a lighthearted way and it made sense with some of the advice Zane gave for a long marriage. He made it very clear that you can’t get upset at every little thing in the world that goes on. You can’t hold grudges and if there is something in the back of your mind bugging you, you must address it. There will be differences. Zane, when it came to money, was always a spender and Margaret a saver. Zane remembered a time saying, “Jesus I can’t believe I did it, but we had a house in Oklahoma City with a room that was just begging to have a pool table in it, so I went out and bought the pool table, and cue sticks, and everything. I didn’t tell her a thing about it. The thing was delivered, and she was like what the hell is this? I was afraid she would fight me on it, so I figured oh well if I do it, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” We all have these moments that at the time are ridiculous, but that we can look back on later and laugh.
I realized even more so through them that time is precious. They are older now and because of their age they are aware one of them will be passing on first. They have always tried to be thankful for each day they get. “It’s about the little things,” they said. A banquet of flowers or a batch of cookies and telling each other you love them. It is the little unexpected things you might do. It does not have to be monumental, as Margaret says, “I am still waiting for my diamonds.” It is not about being monumental, it is the consistent small moments that build trust.
And for all you love birds out there, in the words of Zane Dory, “You are not going into marriage because you have a good time in the sack. That’s not a good reason to get married.” It is so much more than that, that is just a piece. Happy Valentine’s Day.