On my wedding day in May 2008, I wore a simple string of pearls. The necklace had descending pattern to it, small beads at the top, larger beads where it draped over my neck. My sleeveless wedding dress brought attention the pearls.
Few people knew that day those beautiful pearls belonged to my mother’s mother. She, too, wore them on her wedding day in 1946. My grandparents, Herschel and Betty Henderson of Stockton, were married 50 years before my grandfather died of a massive heart attack in August 1996, six months after celebrating that golden anniversary.
When my grandmother offered to let me wear the pearls, I thought it would be a perfect “something old,” but also a good omen for my marriage.
My engagement band came from my paternal grandmother. She was married to my grandfather for 65+ years when he died in 2007. In the end, when a second stroke took away his ability to comprehend her fully, she stayed next to him.
My own parents have been married for 30+ years.
When the idea for our series on today’s front page was pitched to me by my colleague Jeff Criesi, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do.
We posted an all-call in the newspaper nearly six weeks ago.
I thought it would be enough time to tell several stories. I was wrong. Even in the last week, I’ve received calls from individuals regarding their marriages. They offer advice. Some don’t want to be quoted. They just want to tell me what makes a good marriage.
Others tell me the stories of their lives. There are so many.
I received emails, phone calls and some snail mail. In haste, a couple weeks ago, I wrote down one person’s phone number wrong. So many stories came in.
There was the man who called to tell me how his wife is still the most beautiful woman to him more than 30 years after they married.
And the woman who told me about a small backyard wedding that, to she and her husband, was so grand.
We couldn’t publish all the stories in the newspaper. I’m sorry for that. They all deserve a space.
I’m adding a couple more here, though.
George Farley wrote in about he and his wife Georgia, both 64.
“We fist met at a dance at UCDavis and God has been choreographing our dance ever since. I’ve learned that I need to step up and lead and Georgia steps in and follows. I was attracted by her liveliness and spunk and she admired my dependability and goal orientation,” he wrote.
He, like many of the couples featured today in the newspaper, offered up a secret as well.
“The secret of our endearing (not enduring) marriage is our open, honest and vulnerable communication of feelings and our super glue commitment to each other. Jesus has become the heartbeat of our marriage which enables me to have sacrificial love for Georgia and for her to have gentle respect for me. We also strive to speak each other’s love languages each day-mine is physical touch and Georgia’s are words of affirmation and quality time,” he wrote.
I loved George’s email because he ended it like this: “Our marriage is the next best thing that has ever happened to us!”
The day the blurb in the newspaper ran, I also got a call from Jackie Heintz in Angels Camp. She and her husband Jerry celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Dec. 21.
She is the former city clerk/administrator for the city. He’s a general contractor whose projects include a generous renovation on the Angels Hotel.
Jackie credited give and take, among other qualities, with making marriage work.
“It’s not just all about you,” she said. “You have to consider what the other person wants to. That’s important.”
And being with the right person, too, is key, she said.
“We have a lot of fun together,” she said of her and Jerry.
Mark Cunningham also wrote in, and called me, about his marriage to wife Lilimarie. The two have been married 31 years.
Their first date was a trip to the Clements Stampede, he wrote. They married in May 1981.
He offered more tips of advice. He wrote about honesty being the best policy. He urged owning up to mistakes “and also when you do something right.”
My favorite part of his email: “Always stay ‘just married.’ Call each ‘honey and dear.’”
And finally, let the glass be half full.
These are just examples. More people called. More conversations were had. More lessons in love were told.
We quote Richard Pardini in the main story today. He lost his wife Beverly last November. In the end, he was taking care of her much like my grandmother was taking care of my grandfather before he died in 2007.
As Richard told his story, I was brought to tears. His advice was to never take the one you love for granted. Tell him or her everyday.
After my conversation ended I immediately picked up the phone and called my husband to tell him I love him.
I’m nearly four years into marriage. A baby, one woman told me. I know, though, that the advice given for our readers will benefit me as well.