They are an elderly couple that has been married almost 71 years.
He was a breadman and she worked in her father’s grocery store in Ensley when they met.
As I sat there listening to the story of their life together, it occurred to me that there are no secrets to staying married — it’s all common sense.
When I asked Margaret, who is 92, what it takes to stay married, she raised an eyebrow conspiratorially, nodded her head toward Jake, and said, “It takes a LOT of patience.”
I had to laugh at the way she said it, but I knew exactly what she was saying. Jake, who is 98, said, “We learned to put up with each other.”
Again, I smiled, because both statements sound like something Jilda and I would say.
I got to thinking about what advice I’d give some young couple if they asked how to stay married for the long haul.
Personally, I think the early years are the most treacherous for most marriages.
There are so many minefields — relationships, finances, dreams, not having things in common that you both enjoy, and figuring out where you’ll eat Thanksgiving dinner are just a few of the potential pitfalls.
Jilda and I navigated those obstacles, but I can tell you it was not painless. There were times I know she seriously considered slamming me in the head with a skillet, and tossing my body into a wood chipper.
There were times I deserved that fate.
But we made the decision to stay together. Hurt feelings and bruised egos heal with time.
Fortunately, even though we sometimes still get angry with each other, I don’t remember either of us saying things that we couldn’t take back, and I think that is the key.
There’s a parable about a young boy with a bad temper and his father had him drive nails in their wooden fence every time he became angry.
After some time and a bunch of nails, the boy learned to control his temper.
Then his father told him for every day he went without losing his temper, he should pull one of the nails out of the fence. After a while the boy went to his father and told him the nails were all removed.
His father said “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same.
“When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”
I found this little parable profound. I’ve known people who were never hurt physically, but at some time in their past, someone close to them had said things that wounded them deeply and even after years, the scars remained.
I didn’t mean for this to turn into a lecture on how to stay married, but after talking with Jake and Margaret this week, it seemed like a fitting topic.