10431 Gulf Beach Hwy Pensacola, Florida, 32507. There’s an address I will never forget. My grandparents lived here before hurricane Ivan tore their house apart, and before my grandpa sold what remained of the property to a condominium developer. Many joyful summers were spent here as a family.
Their home was built on the intercoastal waterway. A strip of land beyond that separated the waterway from the Gulf of Mexico. I remember going fishing off the dock in the evenings or just sitting out there alone to write in my journal. During the day, my siblings and I would enjoy swimming or playing in the backyard. The braver ones would take a paddle boat across to the gulf, dodging the barges, and come paddling back again. I still remember the prickly sensation on my bare feet when I would step on the pine needles and cones that covered the yard. Several times a day, while sitting in the kitchen and having conversations with the family, I would see squirrels dart across the porch trying to get from one pine tree to another. All kinds of birds would come to perch on the feeder that grandma taught the grandkids how to fill. And at the end of the day the afternoon sun would set in a glorious way across the horizon.
I will always miss the sights and smells of that place, but most of all, I miss my Grandma and Grandpa.
I remembered all these things because the kids and I watched the movie Up the other night. (Edric was at a meeting so I had a movie night in our bedroom with the kids.) Even though I had seen Up before, it hit me hard this time around. Carl and Ellie reminded me of my grandparents. My grandparents grew old together and stayed in love. Their marriage was a good example to all of us.
During my grandma’s last few years, she was very sick, physically and mentally. But my grandpa cared for her. He never sent her away to an old folk’s home to live. He died some years ago, too, after a bad accident that he never quite recovered from. They are both with the Lord now.
In the movie Up, Carl befriends an energetic girl named Ellie, who is also a fan of renowned explorer, Charles F. Muntz. She tells Carl of her dream adventure to move her “clubhouse”—an abandoned house in the neighborhood—to a cliff overlooking Paradise Falls. Carl promises to help her. Carl and Ellie eventually get married and move into the restored house. When they are told by a doctor that they are unable to have children, they save up for a trip to Paradise Falls, but end up spending it on more urgent needs. Carl continues to work as a toy balloons salesman and he and Ellie grow old together. When Carl is finally able to book a trip to Paradise Falls, Ellie suddenly becomes ill and dies, leaving him alone.
Carl is heartbroken but continues to live in their home surrounded by paraphernalia that reminds him of the life he had with Ellie. After an unfortunate incident that threatens to send Carl to a nursing home, he finds a way to keep his promise to Ellie. Converting their house into a make-shift airship, he uses thousands of helium balloons to lift it off its foundation. A young member of the “Wilderness Explorers” named Russell becomes an accidental passenger. Together they float to South America where many adventures await them, including meeting Charles Muntz. Determined to get his home to Paradise Falls, he becomes frustrated with the numerous obstacles and inconveniences brought his way by Russell, Muntz, Muntz’s army of hounds, and the beautiful, flightless bird named Kevin.
In the process of having to choose between a new adventure and the promise of an old one, Carl stumbles upon a note Ellie wrote for him. Taped on to the pages of her dear scrapbook which held photographs of their life together — the milestones they celebrated, and the occasions that defined their loving relationship — Ellie had written, “Thanks for the adventure, now go have a new one.” Reading this note was a pivotal moment, as Carl realized he had fulfilled his promise to Ellie. Their marriage had been the adventure she always wanted. She was happy even without Paradise Falls.
Watching the film made me think of my grandparents’ relationship but it also made me think of my own marriage to Edric. In fact, at one point in the movie I got emotional when my second son, Edan, asked me, “Mom, why did the old man love his wife so much?” I nearly choked. So I quickly explained to him, “It’s like the way daddy loves mommy…how daddy likes to be with me and take care of me.” “Oh,” he said in a knowing way and continued watching. Titus, my third son, kept asking about why the wife died. And Edan also asked me if boys live longer than girls do. I explained that it depends. Elijah, my 8 year old, made a comment about how statistically speaking women actually live longer. (But that’s Elijah. His brain is full of facts and information.)
After the movie, I tucked the kids into bed and had my own private moment to thank God for Edric and the kids.
The next morning at breakfast, I told Edric that I had watched Up with the kids. Of course he was jealous that he missed out on our family bonding. I put my hand on his and said, “I just want to thank you for being such a wonderful husband. Watching the movie again made me think of the great adventure our marriage has been. I am so thankful to the Lord for you and the kids.” I also told him that even if we have hopes and dreams for the future, I am already living the best of all my dreams.
I didn’t realize that Elijah was listening to our conversation and he turned away as if to fight back tears. Edric and I didn’t make a big deal out of it. We didn’t want him to feel awkward. We both knew that he understood exactly what we were talking about and I am glad he heard me say it. I want my kids to be absolutely convinced that Edric and I love each other blatantly, affectionately, romantically, unconditionally and permanently, just like we vowed we would would many years ago. And I pray that they will see us grow old together, still in love with God and with each other — that they will be witnesses to a marriage that lasts.
After all, how many children still understand what commitment means or that vows are permanent? How many children see their parents growing old and still more in love and say, “I want that someday?” How many of them will remember, “dad and mom really loved each other.” It pains me to think that there are so many broken marriages out there and consequentially, so many broken children who do not understand God’s beautiful design for marriage.
I am not saying that Edric and I have a perfect marriage because we remain imperfect people who need God’s grace every day. But when we made that promise to one another before God, it was for richer, poorer, better or worse, til death do us apart. Period.
Yesterday, at the Tiangge (the clothes market) of St. Francis Square, I found a cheap P25 ring to replace the wedding ring that Edric lost in the rapids late last year. I laughed as I put it on his finger, a size 18, stainless steel band. He gladly put it on and said, “It feels good to have a ring on my finger again!” I jokingly said that it is better for him to have this kind of a ring in case he loses this one, too. We may eventually get a more valuable one, but we both know that it’s not the cost of the ring that makes it valuable but the eternal relationship that it symbolizes. So for now, he is proudly wearing that cheap ring. As for me, I am so happy that I am married to the kind of guy that will wear a ring like that!