20 years ago today in a church on the northeast side of Kalamazoo, MI, a tall curly blonde with a beautiful smile and an easy laugh agreed to become my wife. The wedding colors were purple and green, a scheme agreed to between us and our friends who also married that day in the same church (and who are also still together). We wowed our wedding attendees by putting together a slideshow set to music that ran on the church’s large overhead screen. While I had coordinated much of it before the wedding, I never saw the final product because of all the other pre-ceremony busyness.
My grandparents were all still alive and able to attend the event. My Grandpa Boyink - tall, angular and stiff in his Sunday suit and relying on his cane for support after a life of manual laboring - would be the first to pass away two years later. My Grandma Boyink, with her dark curls, permanent tanned complexion and penchant for jewelry with turquoise stones never seemed to quite find her place in the world without Grandpa and died a few years after him. They had met while working at the same chicken farm, cleaning slaughtered birds. From that modest start they built a marriage that lasted 61 years.
My maternal grandparents lived at 1015 Colfax Street, Grand Haven, MI their whole married life - in a small story and a half house my Grandfather built after they married. They took longer trips to the south in the winter time, but as vacations rather than relocating the entire season. My Grandma Bosma I always remember sitting with a dress on, her legs crossed, with a Bible laying in her lap. She dabbled in poetry and that was a small connection between us as I started writing odd bits in my career. She was around for the birth of my son and the video I have of the subsequent visit where she holds him as an infant is a treasure to me - I never fail to tear up watching it. She - whom I considered the strongest and healthiest of all of my grandparents - contracted pneumonia and passed away years before I expected her to. My Grandpa Bosma was adopted so we were never sure of his heritage or nationality. His short stature was a source of merriment for us kids as we quickly topped him in height during our teen years and started calling him “Shorty”. An industrial electrician (who wired up many a classic soda fountain in the 1950’s), he was also a life-long smoker and in spite of our constant nagging was the last man standing of all of my grandparents. He lingered in a nursing home for a while after my grandmother passed and as I worked a short distance away I’d have Crissa and the kids meet me there for lunch once a week to visit him. If I recall the story correctly he met my Grandmother at the local grocery store where she was a checkout. Their marriage? 64 years.
My parents, retired and splitting time between a lakefront Michigan home in the summer and a house in Mission, Texas during the winter, just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. My in-laws, despite having married at ages 16 & 18 and coming from families rent apart by divorce on all sides are coming up on their 45th anniversary.
With age comes reflection, and I’ve been reflecting often about heritage and modeling of behavior. I have a 14 year old son who needs to be navigated through the remaining teen years to adulthood and into the workforce. It was through watching the men in my life - my hardworking, blue-collar grandparents and father - that I learned my own values and work ethic. Because I have their personal and professional lives to contrast my own to I can so easily see how incredibly blessed I am to have a fulfilling job and to be able to choose what I do and whom I do it for. I worry that without that same blue-collar foundation my son won’t have the same sensibilities when it comes to his work life - and indeed that is one of the reasons we are currently camp-hosting at an RV park in northern Washington. Being here allows for some additional work opportunities and I’m actually glad to have the opportunity to model a different work environment for him - one that includes sweeping restrooms, wiping down showers, and carrying firewood for people. I think it’s working - as I write this I’m watching him carrying a bucket and shovel around the campground digging up nasty “sticker weeds”, motivated to earn money in hopes of being able to fly a friend out to visit him next summer.
But this was supposed to be a post on marriage, not jobs. If I can in anyway attribute any work-related success in my own life to what was modeled for me by my father, father-in-law, and grandfathers, I can only attribute any success in marriage to those same men. If I define wealth as money or possessions, there is none of that in my family. No family businesses, no large estates, no trust funds. But if I define wealth as practicality, hard work ethics, and above all else modeling solid life-long commitment to God and their spouses, then I indeed have a most generous inheritance.
But that’s only half of the story. The other half is being married to a true help-meet, friend, and soul-mate. She’s my navigator, my copy-editor, and my straight-man for jokes on the kids. She still has that same beautiful smile and I still love to make her laugh. After 20 years it’s still hard to believe how well-matched we are and I can only thank God for that.
Happy Anniversary MsBoyink!
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