My father-in-law leaves everything early. Parties, ball games, church services. If he is in attendance there is a very strong possibility he will take his leave long before the fat lady sings. Maybe even with the score tied in the 9th inning.
Over the years, I've known him to drive ten hours to see a Broncos football game only to be the first one in the parking lot on the way home (which generally means missing the entire second half). He's been known to sneak away from the Thanksgiving table before anyone's had seconds, leave concerts at intermission, and, if he's feeling particularly antsy, offer discreet directives under his breath as he heads up the aisle for communion: "Grab your purse," he'll say to his wife, sounding a bit like Tony Soprano.
Which is why it may come as a surprise that today we celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.
Fifty years! That's saying something for a man who, to this day, may not know there are actually credits that roll at the end of a movie.
My mother-in-law, ever patient and kind, simply shrugs and smiles in her easy way, content to either leave by his side, or let him wait in the car while she lingers.
Still, it's one thing to duck out early at a piano recital; altogether another to duck out on your marriage. In a culture that readily accepts the short-lived unions of celebrities and has all but given up on the idea of one love, my in-laws have managed to hit a landmark that many young couples today won't even consider a challenge let alone an inspiration.
There's a reason Paul Harvey still gives a shout-out on his radio show to those who've hit the Golden Oldie — and if any young married couples are reading this, the heart-felt commitment of your senior counterparts absolutely should inspire you.
It would be presumptuous to say my husband's parents had something so completely and unattainably special, some extraordinary staying power other couples are denied. After all, no one can be married 50 years and not experience a few bumps in the road and I'm sure there were times they wanted to throw in the towel, or at least snap it a few good whacks in the direction of their partner.
Like all good couples, my in-laws have surely had their struggles and strife (though, God knows, and so do I, they'd never be so uncouth as to dwell on them). That half of all marriages fail is a fact of life. That theirs has endured is a testament to this: their enormous faith and the unshakeable grace of God.
I believe when we offer up our desire to remain devoted and true to another, God offers a kind of silent partnership, a personal stake in the deal, if you will. You give me your best and I'll give you mine, He promises.
And so, brick by brick, a marriage is founded, a family built.
All of us — my husband's siblings, their spouses, our children and grandchildren — are indeed inspired by Bill and Lori's unbounded love. As for my father-in-law? For a man who mostly leaves the party early, he's stuck around a remarkably long time and in the end, he'll leave with the best girl in the crowd.