By Sondra Shapiro
“It was supposed to be platonic but I didn’t know how to spell it,” my father-in-law, Ed “Bud” Budnik, joked when he was asked about the day he met my mother-in-law, Marilyn. Bud is normally a man of few words, but when it comes to his bride of 60 years, he can be downright garrulous.
This was the case as the couple celebrated their milestone anniversary at our home, surrounded by their grandkids, both sons, their wives and two of their dearest friends. The simple luncheon was inspired by my mother-in-law, who was given the choice between a large party at a restaurant, similar to what we did for their 50th anniversary, or a more intimate gathering. Marilyn chose the latter. So many of their friends and family are no longer with us, after all. And, nothing gives these two people more pleasure than seeing their family together.
As my husband, David, recited a heartwarming toast to his parents, saying that none of us would be here if it hadn’t been for the couple, his dad interrupted with, “It was an accident, an automobile accident, and I took her home in the pouring rain.”
Prone to unrepentant curiosity, I called a few days later to get more details about that fateful meeting. As is typical with the two of them (she plays the straight woman to his comedy routine), Marilyn recounted the details as Bud could be heard in the background adding humorous commentary. It was at Howe Park in Spencer — Marilyn, who could barely walk after being involved in a car accident, was enjoying an afternoon with two friends when it began to rain hard. Bud was working at the park and came to the rescue of the rain-soaked group by driving them home.
Sixty-years later, Bud, 86, and Marilyn, 84, have created volumes of memories, many of which were recounted during their luncheon as guests perused a well-worn scrapbook crammed with photos and mementoes documenting a life’s worth of daily activities and milestone celebrations.
The memories pale when compared to their legacy of devotion, unconditional love, mutual respect and the strong moral compass they have passed onto their sons. David and his brother, Rob, are amazing husbands; Rob is a terrific dad. Both are loyal and giving to friends and family — it’s the Budnik way. Both men, like their father, know how to treat their women right.
What this unassuming couple achieved is monumental by most standards. And, it is even more extraordinary to consider that it wasn’t easy in the beginning since their parents initially objected to the Catholic Bud dating the Jewish Marilyn. There was much hardship to overcome in those early years.
The fact that the families on both sides eventually embraced the couple is a testament to the determination and love between Bud and Marilyn. The challenges would have doomed most couples. Instead, Bud and Marilyn became more devoted to each other. They are rarely apart except when Marilyn calls Bingo on Thursdays, or when Bud joins a group for morning coffee at the local McDonald’s.
They still hold hands. They think of the other one first in every situation. She butters his toast and makes up his plate before her own. If he notices that she is struggling with something, he is quick to run to her aid — whether she wants him to or not.
He speaks for her; she speaks for him. It’s always, “Mum wants,” or “Your dad prefers.”
“Yes,” we will answer, “but what do you want”? They are usually stumped by that question since neither is conditioned to think about him- or herself first.
They do bicker, get frustrated with each other and sometimes even complain to us about the other. I didn’t say they were saints. I will say, they have their priorities straight — they don’t allow the small annoyances that go along with any two people who reside together get the better of them.
The New York Times just published an article that debunks the 50 percent divorce rate among Americans. Yet the rate of breakups is still very high, and for the most ridiculous of reasons.
In an age where materialism rules, the ordinary is extraordinary when it comes to Bud and Marilyn. “We don’t have much, we are simple,” my mother-in-law always says.
We should all be so simple. If couples took a page from my in-laws’ book, there would be happier families and less divorce. Rather than chasing careers, shopping for the next best thing or looking for outside stimulation, Bud and Marilyn found contentment and happiness inside the walls of their small cape.
They live for their children and grandchildren. The family is their reason for being. We are their wealth — we are their legacy.
My in-laws are an inspiration to those blessed to know them. A 60-year love that transcends hardships, loss and joy. When Bud and Marilyn got married, they knew it would be for keeps. For them, the vows, “for better or worse in sickness and health” represent an unbreakable bond, a phrase to literally live by.
Happy 60th Mom and Dad. We all love you.
Sondra Shapiro is the executive editor of the Fifty Plus Advocate. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her online at www.facebook.com/fiftyplusadvocate, www.twitter.com/shapiro50plus or www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.