A Short History of a Long Love Story

Today marks a momentous day: the 45th anniversary of my parent’s marriage. The texts, chocolate, and flowers sent don’t do justice to the gift my parents have given our family.

My mother was age 19 when she married. By age 20 she had twins (surprise!). By age 21 she had a third. She was tired.

What did I know of hardship? Life was fun!

I always thought my mother described her decision to marry as rather unromantic. It wasn’t so much of being “madly in love,” but rather, “I felt it was the right thing to do.”

Frowning, I vowed too have both 🙂

She was a nursing major, but had to drop out of the program she was so sick. She lost weight during her pregnancies and had to move back home for awhile so her mother could take care of the twins (me and my brother) while she tried to hold down food and complete homework. And yet, by sheer grit (and family babysitting) she did get that 4-year-degree in Family Science! (which proved to be one of the best decisions she ever made. We were great parenting guinea pigs.)

Me and my two chums (Peter and Andrea; we were more like triplets) lived in a little blue trailer at the base of Mount Timpanogus in Provo, Utah, while both parents finished school, worked, and raised three messy babies who liked to run away (mostly Peter!)

The Three Little Pigs

When Peter and I were age 2, we moved to Omaha, Nebraska – far far away from family to the unknown midwest. Two more babies, Eric and Patrick, were born. I ADORED playing house with them, wrapping them up and hauling them around. It was a very stressful period of time for my parents: no money, starting a business, trying to make payroll, five children under the age of seven, long long work hours for my dad, home all day with kids for my mom. I know my mom contemplated what leaving would look like.

Always one who was keenly interested in people and relationships, I was both blithely unaware of marital challenges and observant of their behavior toward one another.

I would say this: they loved one another. They had a great respect for one another. They didn’t yell. They never demeaned one another (though my mother is widely known for her witty, slightly sarcastic tongue 🙂 )They had a united front. They had great faith that “sticking it out” would have eternal and lasting consequences. They taught us what commitment looks like.

My parents with their five children. I’m the oldest and the shortest – but I can still take my brothers in a push-up contest…maybe.

There’s nothing my parents love more than their family – even the crying babies.

Yesterday, on the eve of their 45th anniversary, my dad sent his five children the love story of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (the brilliant author of Crime and Punishment) and Anna Dostoyevskaya (also brilliant; his editor and researcher.) Read the whole story HERE – it’s so good.

Of their love story, Anna wrote:

Throughout my life it has always seemed a kind of mystery to me that my good husband not only loved and respected me as many husbands love and respect their wives, but almost worshipped me, as though I were some special being created just for him. And this was true not only at the beginning of our marriage but through all the remaining years of it, up to his very death. Whereas in reality I was not distinguished for my good looks, nor did I possess talent nor any special intellectual cultivation, and I had no more than a secondary education. And yet, despite all that, I earned the profound respect, almost the adoration of a man so creative and brilliant.

This enigma was cleared up for me somewhat when I read V.V. Rozanov’s note to a letter of Strakhov dated January 5, 1890, in his book Literary Exiles. Let me quote:

“No one, not even a ‘friend,’ can make us better. But it is a great happiness in life to meet a person of quite different construction, different bent, completely dissimilar views who, while always remaining himself and in no wise echoing us nor currying favor with us (as sometimes happens) and not trying to insinuate his soul (and an insincere soul at that!) into our psyche, into our muddle, into our tangle, would stand as a firm wall, as a check to our follies and our irrationalities, which every human being has. Friendship lies in contradiction and not in agreement! Verily, God granted me Strakhov as a teacher and my friendship with him, my feelings for him were ever a kind of firm wall on which I felt I could always lean, or rather rest. And it won’t let you fall, and it gives warmth.”

In truth, my husband and I were persons of “quite different construction, different bent, completely dissimilar views.” But we always remained ourselves, in no way echoing nor currying favor with one another, neither of us trying to meddle with the other’s soul, neither I with his psyche nor he with mine. And in this way my good husband and I, both of us, felt ourselves free in spirit.

Fyodor Mikhailovich, who reflected so much in so much solitude on the deepest problems of the human heart, doubtless prized my non-interference in his spiritual and intellectual life. And therefore he would sometimes say to me, “You are the only woman who ever understood me!” (That was what he valued above all.) He looked on me as a rock on which he felt he could lean, or rather rest. “And it won’t let you fall, and it gives warmth.”

It is this, I believe, which explains the astonishing trust my husband had in me and in all my acts, although nothing I ever did transcended the limits of the ordinary. It was these mutual attitudes which enabled both of us to live in the fourteen years of our married life in the greatest happiness possible for human beings on earth.

Trouble and struggle certainly found my parents. Their personalities are very different, as they will be the first to tell you, but I believe my father sent his children the above note as a reminder that despite the mystery we are to one another, love is a kind of firm wall on which we feel we can always lean, or rather rest. And it won’t let you fall, and it gives warmth.

This is certainly what they have done for one another, and return, have given their children and our children a place to lean that is immovable. Their love lets us rest when we have struggles of our own. It doesn’t let us fall. It gives warmth.

Day to day, great love stories are often quite mundane and ordinary, but over time, become quite extraordinary.

I love you, Mom and Dad. Thank you. Happy Anniversary.

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6 thoughts on “A Short History of a Long Love Story

  1. Julia Tomiak

    Wow, Amy, this made me cry. Thank you for sharing this great love story, and the excerpts from Anna’s writing. I will definitely read that whole story. In a time and society that often treats love as more expendable than I’d like it to, I enjoyed reading about long lasting loves and relationships.
    I think my husband and I have what your parents have, and it makes me immensely grateful.
    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Shar Petersen

    Amy this is amazing and so beautiful. Also have we talked about the fact that I’m a twin, too?! My parents were also married at 19, had twins at age 20, and so busy and tired and worked so hard. I loved reading your parents’ love story and the Dostoyevskys too. thank you for sharing all of this!

    Reply

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