Baumhower: A 60-year love lessonWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | email@example.com
On a random Saturday in April of 1953, on the East Side of Toledo in St. Mark Lutheran Church, a small wedding took place. This religious ceremony was witnessed by a surprisingly packed congregation and is responsible for my very existence. A very loud Merlin “Pete” Zunk somehow convinced a very beautiful JoAnn Keeley to get married that day. That partnership that has led to five children, including my mom, nine grandchildren including my sister and myself and seven great-grandchildren (I am responsible for more than half of them). April 18 marked my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, and ultimately was the greatest lesson of love my children or myself may ever experience.
I knew the date was coming, but like many parents in today’s times, with kids playing multiple sports, activities, etc., the significance never truly set in. As I was making arrangements to have all of my children in attendance, a sad revelation occurred to me: If I got married today, I would have to live to be almost 100 years old to see my 60th anniversary. It was another dismal reminder of my failed marriage and how hard it seemed to keep it together for the 11 years we did. I am certain the shoes my grandfather wore that night had lasted longer than my marriage and had still maintained a better shine.
I have been blessed to have my Grandpa Pete my entire life. A lifetime full of yelling, repeated stories and life lessons on everything from car maintenance to team loyalty to love. For as long as I can remember, Pete has pointed out his true secret of life: “Family. Work. Friends.” Three very simple words, purposely ordered to demonstrate where a man’s priorities should come first … like rock, paper, scissors. Family before work, work before friends. In retrospect, it is the very lesson I ignored during my marriage.
As I packed my four kids into my minivan and drove them to the anniversary party, a conversation began. After they got the standard “Be on your best behavior” warning blast, we discussed how unusual these anniversaries were. I secretly wondered if my kids will ever have this type of conversation with my future grandkids about how special and rare such as anniversary is.
When we arrived, the first order of business was to have family pictures taken by the photographer who had been hired. I was caught up in the moment, grabbed my iPhone and snapped a picture that captured my grandparents perfectly. I, like everybody else with a good photo, decided to post this beautiful image on my Facebook page, with the following description … “Please do me a favor and ‘like’ this picture. This is my Grandma JoAnn and Grandpa Pete … Today they celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Something most of us will never see. I have learned more lessons of love from an 80-year-old man than any movie or book. These are my two favorite people on this planet.” Than an amazing thing happened — my grandparents’ picture started to go viral. During the next couple of days it was shared everywhere, with comments from complete strangers and seemingly everyone in Point Place “liking” the picture.
When my grandparents got married 60 years ago, they quietly ran a notice in their church bulletin, because neither could afford a bigger wedding. To their surprise on their wedding day, the church was packed to the rafters. Their reception was at one of their parent’s homes, where it seemed their entire ZIP code brought a plate and met them afterward. My grandparents went viral before Facebook, Twitter or iPhones. My entire occupation is trying to get my words to go “viral,” and sharing their picture has been my greatest success. Yet another life lesson learned.
My grandparents’ marriage has survived a war, five kids (one of whom has beaten cancer twice) and each other for 60 years.
Most marriages today can’t survive Facebook.
I am so thankful that my kids got to witness an event that is seemingly becoming extinct. They got to feel the sense of accomplishment, hear the stories and see the wrinkle one’s marriage can make in this world.
In one room, on a Saturday night, some 60 years later, my grandparents’ entire body of work was on display. It wasn’t a house, their savings account nor their cars, it was simply the love they shared and what it has created.
Thank you Pete and JoAnn for showing your great-grandchildren what love actually is.