50 years of love: Things my grandparents taught me about love

This week my grandparents celebrated their golden marriage, something that seems to be a rare occasion nowadays. Growing up I never had parents to show me what a loving relationship looked like, since my parents divorced when I was only 6 years old. But luckily for me, I have grandparents who are the living breathing example of what a loving marriage should be like. They have faced some really difficult challenges, but fought through it all. They really live up to the ”for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part.

I never really knew what it was like to live in a household where both parents truly loved each other. My parents got together under weird circumstances and their divorce really didn’t come as a surprise. I often spent days over at my grandparents just looking at their daily routines and observing how they interacted with each other. They bicker a lot and my grandmother always has to correct my grandpa whenever he’s telling stories, but when you look past all that, it’s obvious how much those two love each other. I’ve asked Opa often how he did it. How is it possible to stay with the same person for decades? And he gave me some pretty great advice..

”A marriage is a give and take type of deal, but you ALWAYS give a little bit more than you take. And a good partner does the same thing for you in return.”

He told me that you shouldn’t want to be selfish in a good relationship, since you are in this together. Of course it’s okay to be selfish every once in a while, but you should never do things where it would only benefit you. In the end, the goal should be to make this person happy and only thinking about yourself can ultimately damage your relationship.

”Choose each other, every. single. day.”

My opa and oma have had their fair share of health issues. My oma has had a bad functioning body for as long as I can remember and my opa ended up with a really bad back injury three months into their marriage. He was bedridden for months and Oma took care of him, without complaining. It was a rough time financially though, since Opa was the one bringing home the bacon, but he couldn’t work. They made the best of it though and despite all of this, they still look back on it as the best years of their marriage and a period of growth. Opa took care, and still takes care, of Oma because she can’t do as much. Many people have criticised and berated him for staying with her, but he stuck with her, and still does till this day. When I asked him about it, he simply said that the easy way out isn’t always the most fulfulling and that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

”Have fun. Lots of it.”

My grandparents like to joke around a lot. Whenever I’m there Opa likes to crack lots of jokes about how small Oma is, or how she can’t do anything to him anyway, since she can’t run that fast. He’d have to duck though, since she has no issue throwing her slipper across the room. But they always laugh a lot. They have these funny little inside jokes that only they can laugh about. The kind of jokes that would raise eyebrows if they would be said out loud in public. And I love them for it. Lots of bellyaches have occurred in their living room from laughing too hard.

”Stick together, even when times are rough.”

They’ve experienced the one thing every parent out there fears. The loss of a child. The past four years have been really tough for them, but they fought through it. They still struggle with it, but they raise one another up when falling down. They hold each other when the days are tough and they make it through anyway. They could’ve chosen to lose optimism and succumb to that downwards spiral, but they didn’t. They make the best of it and try to spend their time doing things they like doing. Together.

”Communicate. Don’t ever go to bed angry at each other.”

One thing that Opa and I talked about a lot, is the fact that you should never go to sleep when you are mad at one another. You never know if you’ll wake up the day after. Talk through your grievances, even if it means that you’ll be sitting there until sunrise or if it means that you’ll end up fighting. Sometimes it needs to get bad before it gets better. But it’s never good to let small annoyances or frustrations sit there and fester. These small things combined can lead to something nasty, so why not just solve it by talking it through the moment it bothers you?

”Don’t stop falling in love with each other”

And with that I’m not talking about the happy sappy cheesy ”get a room” honeymoon kind of love. I’m talking about kissing each other on the cheek while they’re doing the dishes, or putting your hand on their knee as they’re sitting next to you on the couch. These small and subtle little gestures you can barely see, but that are there. I feel warm inside when I see those tiny little things as they go about their day. It’s so obvious that they’re still crazy about each other after 55 years of being together. It’s sweet and adorable.

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My bonus mom actually gave them an AWESOME surprise. She got a wedding cake made for the occasion and they were just so happy.

I really admire the way they handle things and I can only hope that if I get married one day, that won’t be the kind of love you read about in fairytales, but the love my grandparents have for each other. It’s real and raw and it hasn’t always been pretty, but it also shouldn’t be. My opa and oma are from the generation where you fixed things when they were broken, instead of throwing it away. And I’m a firm believer of that as well. Obviously, if it no longer works you have to let it go, but problems that are easy to fix, should always be fixed first. I am proud to have such amazing rolemodels in my life, knowing that not everybody is that lucky. I am grateful for them and I am grateful that I got to experience their love for each other. 50 years down, and hopefully a whole lot more to go!

Do you have rolemodels like these?

I’d love to hear about your stories!

– Naiyee

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Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages..

So this week I’m up to something pretty big! I’ll be going back to the Netherlands for the first time in over a year to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It always ends up being pretty awesome whenever I’m down there to visit family, but the time leading up to those trips are always pretty stressful for me.

For those of you that don’t know me that well, my mother passed away only a couple of months after I moved to Denmark in 2014 and basically right after I moved here, I had to go back to be there with her. The weeks leading up to it was grueling, because she was very sick, and I knew that nothing would be the same way as I left it. But then she passed away and suddenly it felt as if my home was taken away from me. Even though I still have all of my family and friends over there, it feels as if I no longer belong. Part of me is probably also just nervous about receiving bad news again, the same way as it did back in 2014. Now I know that that is absolutely irrational and I have nothing to worry about, but still. Going back is hard for me, because it’s a constant reminder of the life I once had. A life I once took for granted. My friends moved away, our dogs have been adopted, my entire family lives in different parts spread out over the country and well.. the house I grew up in is no longer ours.

I remember walking around my hometown last year with my Opa and my sister and even though everything looked the same, the feeling was gone. It was like a familiar painting, but without the warm colours..

Whenever I do go down there to see everyone, it feels like a warm bath. It’s lovely to be surrounded by my family and friends and sometimes I really do wonder if moving abroad was the right decision, but then I look at how much I have grown and the little life I’ve established here and it made me realise that I did something right. But there are moments where I really hate being so far away from everyone I love. It makes me wish that sometimes I wasn’t so adventurous and found contentment in a simpler life, closer to the ones I love. But then I think about a quote my mom once sent me:

”Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages”.

I see where she was getting at.. I used to ALWAYS follow my head and play it safe, but it also made me very unhappy. The one moment I decided to follow my heart was the decision to move countries, something lots of people in my direct circle never expected of someone like me. But I still try to protect my heart from things that may hurt it, so I keep it tucked deep within me, within my ribs. Isolating myself is a bad coping mechanism I’ve created over the years and I am not very proud of it, but it has always worked. Now that I live so far away from my loved ones it’s even easier, although I try not to. Staying away from the place that confronts me; my own bloody home, is easy, but it’s not a solution. It’s bittersweet really, because this longing for being with my family comes with this fear, this sense of anxiety of returning to my home, because of the events that have occurred there 4 years ago, not even to mention that this month marks the fourth year since my mother has passed.

So in a way, this upcoming trip has given me a lot of sleepless nights too. I procrastinated booking my flight and letting my family know if I’d be there, because of this tug-of-war in my head. However, I knew I couldn’t stay away. This is a milestone in my grandparents’ lives and they had already considered holding it off, since my mother couldn’t be there too. And I can relate to this feeling, because I’ve been there too. I didn’t want to marry or have kids if she wouldn’t be there to experience it, but in the end, life doesn’t stop because her life ended. So I’m proud of my grandparents for deciding that they’d celebrate anyway. I couldn’t say no when they asked me if I’d come too, knowing that they’d already have one empty chair at that table. I didn’t want them to have to look at yet another empty chair at that dining table. And I’m happy that I get to see them again. Spending time with them is fun. They’re amazing people and I am so grateful to still have them.

Life is strange. It’s incredible how much impact the loss of ONE person can have on so many lives. My mother’s death may have caused us to be far apart from one another, but our bond is closer than ever. I only get to spend 4 days in the Netherlands, not very long, but my loss also taught me to cherish those moments, as big or as little as they may seem.

As my favourite Disney character once said:

”This is my family. It’s little and broken, but still good.
Yeah, still good”

To all of you reading this,

Hug your loved ones a little tighter today. You never for how much longer you’ll have them..

– Naiyee