This article is the 24th in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.
CALIFORNIA, Md.—This month Fred and Madelyn Garris celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary. They both were 22-years-old when they married after just an eight-month courtship and they both worked long hours. In those early years, Madelyn struggled to cook meals Fred enjoyed. After two-and-a-half years, the first of their four children was born, and Madelyn left her job and focused on raising their family.
Fred’s work travel took him away from home often, leaving Madelyn to manage the children alone. Life became especially difficult when Fred’s job moved them to Maryland, causing them to leave behind friends, family, and church. The two children who were still at home did not want to move and rebelled, one becoming involved with drugs and both neglecting their schoolwork. Because Fred was busy setting up a new office, it was left to Madelyn to deal with these family issues.
When Garrises speak of the heartbreaks resulting from their children’s choices, their voices become quiet and they look intently at each other. Their children’s broken marriages trouble them, and helping their grandchildren cope has become a priority. A granddaughter came to live with them when she was 14 and stayed until her second year of college.
Fred and Madelyn enjoy spending time together and especially love to travel—once a way to escape problems at home and now a way to focus on the future. They like antiques, and fill their home with treasures they have found. Madelyn enjoys painting, and their living room walls display her works of art. They like to work together on special projects. For example, Fred has built carousel horses and home decor for Madelyn to paint with bright colorful designs. They sell some of their creations at craft fairs and flea markets, and give others to friends and family.
The Garrises believe they have been frugal, wise, and blessed. Through unexpected hardships and disappointments, they have worked things out. Their advice to other married couples is to “bite your tongue and recognize that you don’t have to always have your way. Forgive and get over it. Don’t stay mad or hold on to anger. Recognize that in life you have to accept the good with the bad.”