I tend to have an unhealthy view of romantic relationships, either by idolizing them and assuming marriage will solve all my problems or by demonizing them and assuming marriage is a playground of horror. Thankfully, I have men and women in my life who model healthy relationships. None more so than my grandparents, Harold and Jean Stark.
I once asked them to describe the hardest thing about marriage. “Oh, it’s not that hard,” Grandma said.
“What? Come on. What do you fight about?” I asked.
Grandpa drummed his fingers against the table. “We don’t fight.”
Grandma covered his hand with hers, cutting off the repetitive noise. “Stop that, Harold. Well, I get mad with how fidgety he is. But that’s pretty much it.”
I think there is a 100% chance that they have fought at some point in their marriage. But after 61 years of living together, I find it extremely adorable that those times of animosity have faded into something inconsequential.
Everything about their story is even-keeled. There aren’t terrifying highs or depressing lows. They are, simply put, solid people who built a solid relationship together. They grew up in the same small town in Southern Illinois. They each dated other boys and girls from their little school, but eventually they gravitated toward each other. My grandpa served in the military on the island of Eleuthera taking weather readings, and he frequently wrote letters to my grandma asking her to marry him and move to the island. Sometimes she would write back and say yes. Other times she would say no, because she couldn’t stand the idea of sweeping sand out of her house multiple times a day. I cannot stress how cute I find this practicality.
They did get married, and had three kids. My grandma remains the practical one who likes the house clean and the people presentable. My grandpa is the sentimental one who writes poetry and makes personal cards for every occasion. Together they are an unstoppable force of awesome, continuing to serve at their church and in their community even as they reach their mid-80s.
If I had to distill the success of their relationship to an overly simplistic platitude, it would be this: they work together and they play together. They cook meals for the church together, and they run a yearly blood drive together. They visited all 48 continental states together, and they play card games together. They tell stories together, each one providing names and details that the other has forgotten.
My grandparents are not perfect. But they are, in every way, a team. They have committed to spend their lives together, helping and supporting each other through family, work, retirement, and health scares. Harold and Jean Stark are an inseparable pair who quietly and simply go through life being amazing. I’m so grateful to be their granddaughter, and I hope someday that I will have a romance half as wonderful as theirs.
Valentine’s Week Posts
February 8: How to Plan a Galentine’s Day Party
February 9: Top 6 Romantic Songs
February 10: Top 6 Heartbreak Songs
February 11: “Romance” in Senegal
February 12: Top 8 Romantic Books
February 13: A Romantic Ideal: Harold and Jean Stark
February 14: Happy Valentine’s Day!
What a lovely Valentine gift! Such words from a granddaughter, though biased, are more to be coveted than gold. G’pa and G’ma