Our fourteenth wedding anniversary is approaching. I read somewhere that the traditional gift for such a milestone is ivory, and the modern gift suggestion is gold jewelry. Unless the wheat market makes a miraculous recovery in the next two weeks, I’m not anticipating such a gift this year. Actually, we have never exchanged gifts for our anniversary aside from the year that my spouse purchased a new rifle and attempted to pass it off as a gift for me.
Our true anniversary gift is the simple fact that we are still married. I think no materialistic token could truly mark the significance of that accomplishment, especially given the fact that we are married to a farm as well. That’s a balancing act that no one ever perfects, and I believe that fewer and fewer people are even surviving the attempt.
One of the key factors in the survival of our marriage has been the fact that we acknowledge our differences, our strengths, and our weaknesses.
He has come to understand that I cannot back up a horse trailer or provide hand signals to guide someone else in the task. It’s just not my gift. Early in our marriage, he thought he could teach me to master this essential role of the farm wife. He was certain that with a little instruction, some fine points of criticism, some hollering, and a few years of practice, I would eventually catch on.
He was wrong.
I am still utterly inept as a trailer-backer-upper. I cannot even be a trailer-backer-upper-guide. And now, instead of holding his head in frustration, he calmly accepts that I am unteachable. Just last week, when he called upon me for assistance in loading the bulls for testing day, I stood next to the post and watched him back the trailer up to it perfectly with nary a hand signal from me. I applauded his expertise, and he refrained from rolling his eyes at me in exasperation. That was, indeed, a gift.
My reciprocal gift is to refrain from smacking my forehead when he is standing in front of the open refrigerator with a blank look upon his face searching in vain for the bottle of ketchup that has been kept in the same location for a decade. Now that we have been married for 14 years, I can not only read his mind to determine which item he seeks, but I will swiftly move across the kitchen, deposit the item in his hands, and not even make a smart remark about finding something that is right in front of his nose. I realize that finding things is not his gift.
We both realize that we cannot go on a shopping excursion together. When I embark on a trip to town, I have lists of items that must be accomplished and a general timetable for the tasks at hand. He gets in the pickup and figures it out when he gets there.
Our differences can also be seen in our topics of conversation with others. A group of farmers who have just met will discuss markets, weather, and machinery. Farm wives who have just met will exchange birth stories, their children’s ages, and the difficulty of washing grease out of jeans.
When farmers are attempting to remember when an event occurred, they use the years of their pickups as a guide.
“Well, Jim, I believe that was back in ’88 because I remember I had my old body style Chevy with the two tone paint back then.”
Women, on the other hand, can accurately pinpoint the year of an event based upon the ages of her children at that time.
“Honey, I’m just sure that we fenced that pasture in ’97 because I remember little Mary was still nursing and I had to go back to the pickup and take care of her while you were putting in the corner brace.”
These differences between genders are not coincidental, I believe. We were designed to complement each other and to utilize our strengths in order to minimize each other’s weaknesses.
I believe that being married has made me a better person, and I believe that being married to a farmer is a privilege despite its challenges. The results of our partnership can be seen in our four growing kids, our growing crops, and our growing calves this spring. Those are the gifts that I value.