My husband jokes with me sometimes and says, “Know your role!” in a good-natured, sarcastic, “fry-me-a-steak-and-get-me-my-slippers-woman!” kind of way.

Today is my parents’ 37th wedding anniversary. I suppose I could ask them what their secret to a long marriage is, but I think I know. At least I know part of the reason, because there is no ONE secret to successful marriage.

They each know their role.

I couldn’t sit here and define for your their roles to the letter, but I know that they each have them and that they each know and carry them out with strength, kindness, selflessness, and love.

I do know that my parents didn’t have the luxury of a “date night” once a month, or long weekends where they could drop the kids at grandma’s and get away together. I know that my dad worked many hours away from home, long, hard hours but that nevertheless provided for our family. He didn’t complain. And my mom, home with me and my sister, homeschooling us, teaching us about household responsibilities to prepare us for adulthood and our own families, carting us to music lessons, field trips, church, etc. She didn’t complain.

I saw my mom wait up many a night for my dad to cook him a hot meal. And she still does. I saw her clean their house with hospital grade cleaners to protect him from any possible germ when he came home from his bone marrow transplant and guard him like a sentry against anyone that might compromise his recovery. I’ve seen her get livestock corralled back to where they belong because Dad wasn’t home. I’ve seen her embrace him when he’s been on the verge of falling apart.

I saw my dad tell her every night that “That was the best supper I’ve ever had!” and mean it. I saw him leave early in the mornings in freezing cold, brutal heat, and everything in between to go to a job that he probably wanted to quit on more than one occasion. I’ve seen him take care of Mom when she was sick or had a broken arm. I’ve also seen him embrace her when he knew she simply needed to be held.

They are mindful of one another and thoughtful to each other. They know their roles.

Is their marriage perfect? Heck no! But while tensions get the best of everyone, I can honestly say that I’ve only ever heard them argue harshly two or three times in my lifetime. And the majority of my memories of growing up with them involve sickening kisses and embraces that made me and my sister gag.

I’m thankful for those moments now.

Because I’ve seen them weather some storms. Some really big, nasty storms.

Job uncertainties, family discord, serious physical ailments – many things that would tear a marriage apart. But they knew their roles, put 100% into them, and here they are – 37 years strong.

They are in a phase of life now that revolves around grandchildren, planning for retirement, taking care of aging parents. New roles, new responsibilities, and probably having to work harder now to make the time they get together count. Even if it’s just sitting down for a meal or watching a football game. They still carry our their marriage roles with strength, kindness, selflessness and love.

I’m proud of my parents. I’m proud of them because they have never given up. I’m proud of how they respect each other and thank each other and interact with each other. Their marriage has survived in a world that has torn many apart. Knowing what I know about them, what all they’ve endured, and how they came out stronger inspires me. It gives me hope. It makes me want to play out my own role as a wife to the utmost excellence. And that, my friends, is quite a legacy.