74

74 years this Sunday. That’s how long my grandparents have been married.

They have 5 children. After that, it gets complicated. Our family tree would be classified as an invasive plant. And it’s amazing how the genes get passed down. I have a cousin who looks like him and a niece who looks like her in this photo.

They grew up in the 20s and 30s, and they have a work ethic that some would say goes beyond reasonable. She had to be convinced recently not to get on chairs to clean, and, while doing yard work, he uses his tractor to pull himself up off the ground. (We are smart, but it’s a Canuck smart.)

He tells his stories to anyone who will listen, and she still laughs at them. Or shakes her head. The funniest thing I’ve heard her ask him is “Did you look at yourself in the mirror today?”

They have lived by the philosophy of “if it is functional and well maintained, there is no need to replace it.” And they are very good at maintaining. They have furniture that they bought prior to my memory that still looks like new. About 10 years ago, I needed to buy a new clothes dryer, and of course I bought a new washer to match. (Frugality and house cleaning standards have slightly decreased with each generation, though work ethic remains strong across the board.) I gave them my old, perfectly functioning washer. They were going to store it until their even older washer could no longer be maintained, but my uncle put his foot down and made them change it out.

They love their family, and the definition of “family” is a little blurred. Shortly before my father (their ex son-in-law) died, they took him for a day trip on my uncle’s boat.  I think it was the last really good day my father had.  I will always remember that.

What’s their secret to marriage?  Maybe it’s that “if it is functional and well maintained, there is no need to replace it” mentality. I’m guessing it goes beyond that.

Now, I’d like to put an offer out to my family that they might not take me up on because they are private and don’t like to share their emotions. (I don’t either, but I have discovered I don’t seem to mind writing about them.) If you would like to, add your anniversary wish or memory as a comment to this post. John and Michael, keep it clean. Justin, no potty humor. And no yelling out “$2!” on anyone’s comment.

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29 Responses

  1. Joanne says:

    I am one of the benefactors of the family tree being classified as an “invasive plant” (one of your best analogies yet). And I truly mean benefactor in every sense of the word.

    From you (and through Pauline & Phil of course), I’ve learned the true meaning of the word family. And I’ll never forget that day on the boat with Dad either.

    I’m not the only one thankful…I know how Matt cares about you, and our kids don’t know the difference, but they are thankful too.

    It’s sad that elders these days aren’t treated with the respect of yesteryear, when they were the leaders of communities, sharing their wisdom. Not so with you two. You hold a cult-like celebrity status, with someone always wanting to feed you raw bar, steamers or mussels (and that would include Matt, by the way).

    You always made me feel so welcomed, so included – like I was always meant to be a branch on the tree… and I can’t thank you enough for that.

    Happy 74th anniversary! That’s so incredible! I truly hope to be you someday…. the wealthiest people on the planet.

  2. Gail Lontine says:

    I would definitely be considered another invasive plant, but rather than feel like I should be quickly eradicated before I spread out too much, I was welcomed to send my tendrils out into this very cool family. From the first day I met Memere and Pepere, they made me feel like one of the group. Pepere and I even talked French to each other. Since that’s what I grew up with, it made me feel at home. They are “real” people that are so down to earth and easy to be around. They accept everyone just as they are and look for the good in each of us no matter what our story is. I think that’s the secret to their success – acceptance sprinkled with the knowledge that although no one is perfect, all are good enough to be endured (and enjoyed!). Marriage is all about endurance, isn’t it? But I’ve got to admit….74 years of it is beyond my comprehension. Wow! They are a couple to look up to. Congratulations to Memere and Pepere on their 74th anniversary! I wish you many more years of happiness…

  3. David says:

    Who is the cousin ? John ?
    Who is the niece ? Amber ?
    The wedding pic. is PRICELESS !
    I would delete the pic that shows a pathetic Canuck.

    74 yrs. — KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !!!!!

  4. It is not an issue of expressing my emotions. I just hate writing anything with a PASSION. Maybe it relates back to the fear in my youth of creating a run-on sentence or using incorrect punctuation.

    Being more comfortable with math, I will say that Jack and I have been married for forty-nine years or 2/3 of seventy-four. Although we are each other’s best friends or as this generation calls it “soul mates”, we know how much effort it takes to make anything work.

    Thanks for the example, involvement, and self-sacrifice. My life and the family would not be the same without it.

  5. Sue Cooke says:

    As usual Mich has me in tears!

    Memere and Pepere – you inspire me to stay young by always living life to the fullest! I love that the two of you climb up and down the cape stairs so you can put your toes in the ocean water. That Memere never misses her dance class, and stays up with the times by being active on Facebook. That Pepere gets creative to find ways to do the yard work and projects around the house. That the two of you never stop taking pride in doing any job with the highest quality possible. That Pepere never gets tired of entertaining and making us all say “Oh Pepere”…. That all your birthday cards always arrive right on time (how many are there now with your children, grand children and great grand children???)…that you have not lost your competitive sprite and the one that will probably be the easiest for me to still do at your age…being passionate about your food! LOVE AND KISSES to you both. We are a blessed family!!

  6. Phil says:

    74 years is a very very long time–over 27000 days. One has to wonder about all the highs and lows you have gone through over this interminable period. We were privy to many of the highs but know nothing at all of the lows. Maybe there were none. However,seeing Memere’s wistful expression in the blog photo reminds me that she has, during this period, ” jumped” off our second story porch, hurtled down a steep ravine on a snowmobile that arrived on the other side riderless, rolled the same machine over several times on the lake ice barely escaping serious injury and, finally, has thrown herself out of the car into a deep ditch near her own driveway.

    Some say all were “unrelated accidents” but look at the photo again, look at the guy beside her, and come to your own conclusion. Maybe there were some lows!!

    All kidding aside, you both have done a remarkable job that the rest of us can only marvel at – -”so go for 100”

  7. Congratulations Memere and Pepere! Your humor and stories always bring a smile to my face. I wish you the best and hope to see you guys soon. Love you!

  8. Congratulations to two very special people. I have known them since I was teenager. They tolerated me quite well back then and they still do today. My mother-in-law is not only my “Manhattan” drinking buddy (straight up, rocks on the side), but she helped me to change my birth certificate when I was only 17 so that I could get a job (minimum age was 18 for the machine shop). It was clear then that I was expected to earn my keep. My father-in-law gave me my first paying job shoveling garbage when I was a teenager. Slinging garbage helped me immensely in my business life when trying to sell expensive computer services to potential customers. He has entertained me for years with stories that have provided both an historical reference to the past and a glimpse into his personal life. Their dedication to family knows no bounds. They have been generous with both their time and their support of family. I am especially grateful for the attention they have given to my children and grandchildren from the moment they were born. It is no accident that they have achieved cult status. I can only aspire to be respected as much as they are. So, Happy 74th Anniversary and may you have many more. You have my love and respect.

  9. Sara Gladu says:

    Though I’m not on the blood wall, I feel very much a part of this growing family tree. I really need to know Memere’s secret because Justin is becoming more and more like Pepere every day. I can sometimes hear her voice in my head “oh Gene!” Congratulations Memere and Pepere!

  10. Michael Connor says:

    Michelle … I revel in your calling out John and I to keep it clean because I imagine Pepere at our current age speaking with such innuendo and smiling. For Pepere’s benefit I will return to Phil who noted over 27,000 days “& nights” which in the spirit of Mich’s request to keep it clean will say … that’s a lot of loving!

    Speaking more seriously … I, like many, am part of the family by marriage or luck and enjoy the discussions of “to be part of the blood wall or to not be part of the blood wall” but nonetheless enjoy that they are Memere & Pepere to all.
    On your anniversary … Thank you Memere and Pepere for being everyone’s Memere & Pepere!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Pauline

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY MOM AND DAD

    You two are responsible for generations of family members who are always happy to spend time with one another. You have raised kind, considerate and yes, funny individuals who in return. have done the same. Only theirs are funnier or should I say “more interesting characters”? This has also continued with the up and coming generation. After our gatherings, I still feel like I didn’t get enough time with any of them. I more or less stole that last line from my daughter’s prior post. Very fortunate to be part of this family. Love you.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Christine Tate

    Being the first new tendril on the invasive side of the family tree, back in a day where blended families were not all the rage, I learned the love of these two extraordinary individuals. I actually am not sure individual is the proper term. Speaking in plant terms, I am not sure one would have thrived and grown into the strong, hardworking, honest and beautiful people they are today without the other. Over the years, I think their strong bond has made them more of an incredible single entity rather than two separate. Memere and Pepere treated me as one of their own grandchildren. (I am willing to forgo any “wall” comment for today – well almost.) They taught me what a family truly is and what love really means. For this I will always be grateful. Happy Anniversary! Seventy Four Years. Amazing!

  13. David Moody says:

    How do a couple stayed married for 74 years? All I can think of are commitment, companionship, hard work and dedication to family, each other, and to the idea of marriage itself.

    And yes John and Michael, great sex too! By the way, Pepere will happily share, in detail, with all family members at any family gathering. Which speaks loudly to the hard work and commitment thing for Memere.

    But the real reason is explained in the following story. Quite often during family gatherings, Pepere will randomly announce to the room how proud he is of me for immediately showing his daughter who the boss was. You see, when Mich and I were engaged I gave Pauline a concussion, broken finger and wrenched back playing ice hockey at the lake house. To make things worse, she was on my team. She couldn’t play tennis or golf for weeks. Pepere usually follows up by describing how he rules the roost in his family too, and showed Memere who the boss was. He emphasizes how the men in the family have to be strong, courageous and stick together. Hoorays and huffing and puffing sounds are usually heard around this time.

    Once the manhood proclamation and chest thumping subside (unless John is in the room), the confidant women of the family, led by Memere, simply highlight the husbands’ failures (Ok, so maybe just Pepere, Philip and me). The long list of incompetence, irresponsible actions and forgotten obligations and promises hit their targets like an expert archer. Memere’s all volunteer women’s’ army conclude by concisely pointing out the actions they needed to take to steer the ship in the correct direction. This always results in the husbands (again, usually just Pepere, Philip and me) scrambling with their words and actions. Which only emphasizes the wives’ points. And as Pepere has quietly confessed to me, we would be lost without them.

    Bottom-line: Memere and Pepere are the gold standard. They set the tone for strong family, appreciation, commitment, companionship, dedication and hard work, sense of humor, values and convictions. Congratulations!!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Moe

    There is so much to say about Mom, Dad and the family. It might have already been said, will make more people cry or put some to sleep. Mom and Dad are to very special people that I love very much and at 56 years old I still need them to be for me.
    The family that they helped create are different people with a lot of the same character. ( hard working, to organized, talk slow, pause while talking, some may say a little to much for some ears, good at math, did not go to the prom on and on ) Every time I leave a family event I feel like I did not see or talk to someone enough. I guess thats just the way it is.
    Mom and Dad carry the family torch with pride but that torch was handed down to them from there families, which is still ours, just further back and I hope we can continue that style.
    Thanks for the blog Michelle.

    Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

    PS: between my ages of 2 and 22 there may have been a numbered amount of low points. I know I was a problem child but I’m not sorry. It gave you character

  15. Anonymous says:

    Deb-Happy Anniversary Memere and Pepere!! I love you both so very much as a couple and as the unique individuals you are. Glad-u are my mother and father in-law and the very best inspiration for life so richly lived.

  16. Nicole says:

    I love the way Pepere is looking at Memere in the second picture, he’s looking at her as if it’s their first year being together. It’s incredible how two people as great as you can stay together for this long and still have so much love and care for each other. I hope to find someone that I can actually deal with for that long! A big congratulations to you two! Love you both, and hope to see you soon.

  17. -Memere and Pepere, you are many things to many people, and there are many ways to say 74 Years. It is a very long time. It is quite impressive. It is truly amazing. It is a lot of hard work. 74 years is a tremendous amount of love and sharing.

    – Pepere took me for rides around his yard on his red tractor. He has a bullet hole that causes him to yell at just the right time. He sings a nice French jingle while you sit on his lap. He built a house with stones in the foundation, a crawl space between the inner walls, a unique sacred front door, and a mahogany back panel with oak shelves. He fixes things that are broken (e.g., trailer ubolt). He turns wood into finished art. He taught me about carrying bundles, and to bend my knees or squat but avoid sitting. He showed me how to use a chain saw, to drive a truck, to swing a hammer, to shovel maggots, to paint, side, roof, and dig. Measure twice, leave the rake a safe way, balance out heavy labor with more restful tasks. A quick physical break around 10:00, a slightly longer lunch wherever it can be placed nicely, another quick break around 3:00, and take time to clean up at the end of the day. He chauffeured to/from New York, and he looped his hammer down along the Mill boards, picking up the loose nails as he returned. He knows exactly what an inch is and couldn’t care less about a centimeter. He knows how to use Pamplemousse to mean a great many things. He talks to a lot of people, and they all like him, except for the mailman. And he will occasionally enjoy half a beer with his lobster or steamed clams. He loves to be with his family. He understands my jokes better than anybody of any age. He knows what is important and what really isn’t. (Quahogs and peanuts are very important ☺)

    – Memere is an incredibly strong person, and as Memere Upstairs (Messiere) took care of her, so did Memere Downstairs (Gladu) take care of her too. Along the way Memere eventually sat in an infamous rumble seat and then moved up into the front next to the shifting lever. The fancy car and tailfins and lights might have all impressed her, or maybe not, who was playing who will never be known. Instead of a bullet hole, she is missing that throat dangler (uvula). She made food for an entire kitchen and family room full of relatives. She had extras from the garden that were available to all (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, corn). She put Noxzema on my burnt skin when I stained a fence with Creasole. She sits upright and straighter than any person I know. She bakes magnificent pies and has tried every kind of fruit and filling that makes reasonable sense. There is no other Rhubarb on this planet that even comes close, and her “it is just soup” tastes better than anything that any restaurant could create. She always makes everyone feel listened too, with an understanding and compassion that this is the way it is, try your best, and remember family first. She politely listens to members of her family carrying on, but she will not tolerate anybody outside her family saying anything against it. She does like a nice beverage, wine is certainly great, a Manhattan is even better! (Chocolates and jelly candies are very important too ☺).

    – Memere and Pepere show up in Florida while you are camping. They tip over a canoe on the Songo River at Sebago and laugh about it. They come over to your house for any celebration (e.g., Oktoberfest), even when you give them 5 minutes notice about your daughter in a prom dress with 19 other kids on your lawn and a limousine blocking the street. They’ll take a quick picture even if it means moving here or there. They arrive on time, they ask you how you are, and they care about the answer.

    – 74 years, how do they do it, by the many things above and much more for everyone in their family. They do it, everyday, in every way, always have, and always will. Memere and Pepere, thank you for everything, you are best grandparents ever, and you are in inspiration to us all. CONGRATULATIONS on your wonderful anniversary, and I love you both always!!!

  18. Heather says:

    Congratulations Memere and Pepere! I look up to you both so much and can only hope one day I have what you two have. I love listening to all the stories you both have whenever I see you. One of the best memories is when we would walk down to the rocks at the cape to get the mussels. Pepere would say, “make sure you get as many as you can!” He would have them in his hat, buckets, shirt, wherever he could fit some…We would walk back home and a huge meal would be made. I don’t think anyone can eat more mussels than Pepere. Memere you are such a strong person, when I would hear stories from when Meagan did the interview with you about The Great Depression to falling through the deck at the lake… I love you both so much and hope to see you very soon! Thank You for everything you have done

  19. Meagan says:

    Happy anniversary Memere and Pepere! I must have interviewed Memere for my school heritage project about 14 years ago since my paper mentions she would be celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary soon. One of the questions I asked her was “what did you do for entertainment when you were a kid?” and her answer was “the family used to get together. We would all get together and that was fun.” Thanks Memere and Pepere for passing down a love of family and the fact that we all still like hanging out together. 🙂 Love you both!

  20. Justin says:

    I haven’t blogged in a while but this seemed like a good enough reason to come out of retirement. Then again Michele’s rule against potty humor rattled me and writers block seemed to bind me. I didn’t want to mail in a subpar posting for such a special occasion and two people that are very special to me. So I ate a double fiber bar sat and waited for inspiration to move me.

    Pressure builds when I think about the immense work ethic both Memere and Pepere have instilled by example. I really want this to be a fulfilling post.

    In reading your posts, my own memories come flooding back. Like working half days at 8 years old with Pepere and Steve looking forward to the morning break complete with a Coke and chocolate donut. Pulling weeds for a few hours and getting a strong recommendation from my grandfather to “never sit when you are doing work, you’ll look lazy”, sticks with me in a good way 30 years later. Things like spending an occasional weekend at the lake playing a passionate game of cards with Memere and my older cousins. Sharing the stories of my weed pulling accomplishments with these cousins only to be informed that I should be asking for a raise above my $1 hour salary. The words are starting to flow naturally now, no straining.

    In trying to pin down what is unique about Memere and Pepere to make a marriage a success after 74 years I think candor may be one of their secrets. I know Pepere utilizes candor readily with me like “Move the f*!king snow mobile” or with his little acts of love like trying to choke me to death by picking me up by my hoodie sweatshirt. It’s a special kind of love. Now the words are just gushing out of me.

    I’ve been blessed with many things. Perhaps too many things that can make one almost take some for granted. Having family that loves you is not one of those things. Memere welcomes us with a hug like she really means it every time we see her and I’ll certainly never forget that.

    Happy anniversary Memere and Pepere!

  21. So many great writers in this family! Who knew?

    I am averse to write the word “congratulations” as it always seems to me inappropriate. I reserve that word for accomplishment… for those who set and achieve goals… for something that is done, and behind us. Complete. I look to the two of you and I think it unlikely that you sat on a porch 74 plus years ago and said “Let’s go for 74!”… No, I expect you to have many more of these anniversaries to come… at the very least to keep Michelle’s blogging going… so in that sense, you are not done. There is more work to do. Well done up to now… but get back to it please.

    Instead I will say THANK YOU. For everything. If we are that family tree to which Michelle refers, you are the root that keeps us from falling over in the many hurricanes (caused by global warming) that life throws at us year after year after year. You are an inspiration and always a part of what few prayers I offer… to the universe spirit energy… in thanks for what I have, for who I am, and for what I can offer. Thank you for my mom. For my aunts and uncles. For my cousins and sisters and nieces… for they were all born into something lovely. I too was born into something lovely. Something stable. The people who love me love me because of you. Thank you. And thank you for for all those who signed on along the way… for they signed on to something better, something brighter, due to your influence. Love has its bumps and everyone experiences them… but man, without that standard…without that example that it’s possible… we’d all just be dreamers. Thank you for giving me proof that it’s possible.

    And thank for for the stories. The stories. And the stories. And the pie.

    And thank you for the challenge… to love completely… for a long f’ing time…

    Each night I turn to Megan and I say “See you tomorrow?” She says “I suppose”… or “maybe”… or “probably”…depending on her mood. My reply is always the same – “It will be a record.” A record for me. 74 years of marriage? Well, if we can pull a wedding off next year, I’ll have to live to 117 just to match you.
    Challenge accepted. Congratulations.

  22. Important to note… I am ALSO thankful for my brother and nephews… I was going for a melodious way of including everyone…

  23. Anonymous says:

    Thanks to all who submitted comments for all your good wishes ,complements, and memories and every thing else
    love to all.

    memere & pepere.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Wow 74 years is impressive. Keep up the good work!
    -David Jr.