50510: A Secondhand Memoir (Part 3)

I have an email my great-grandfather wrote about the secret to a successful marriage. My mom found it in his office and printed out. It still smells like him. At the beginning of the page, he writes, "I can't tell others how to live [their marriage], but I will tell you how I lived mine."

Louise McKnight met Robert Carlson in Fort Dodge, Iowa, zip code: 50510. I know the story by heart. My great-grandmother had lost both of her parents, leaving her with eight siblings. Looking for a different life, she left her hometown in Louisiana with a girlfriend who was visiting family and friends up north. For some reason, innate fate perhaps, she decided to stop short in Fort Dodge, leaving her friend behind. She got a job as a waitress at a restaurant that is now a franchised drug store called Tierney's. For my great-grandfather it was, truly, love at first sight.

He mustered up enough courage to ask the spunky, barely five-foot redhead, affectionately known as "Tiny," out on a date. He took the two tickets he had bought for a baseball game in the new Dodger's stadium in hand as they walked together for two miles to watch Dizzy and Daffy Dean pitch for the Cubs and White Sox, respectively.

The rest is history:

Louise McKnight became Louise Carlson on July 1st, 1942. The two enjoyed 67 years of marriage. The anniversaries only end there because of Louise's death in April of 2009. I can promise you he loved her just as much after she passed. He lived the next eight years missing his better half.

Today, it seems like no one marries and stays together. Maybe it's because divorces are no longer sources of public humiliation. Maybe it's because things used to be simple. There was no screen to hide behind; everything had to happen face to face.

In a documentation of their life together entitled My Life With "Tiny", my great-grandfather writes in a matter-of-fact manner. It's not flowery, as one would expect a man in love to be, but, instead, is very black and white. It is very uncharacteristic of my great-grandfather, a man who solely read nonfiction and the Bible, to write like this. It shows that there was never a moment in which he didn't believe he and "Tiny" weren't supposed to be with each other. He loved her, she loved him, and that was that.

They shared a bank account, so there was "no secret spending." She let him follow his passion for photography, and he always made sure she had time to hang out with "the girls." They never smoked or "drank excessively." He helped with the dishes and the housework. (Or so he claims; however, I would like to fact check that one with my great-grandmother.)

That mundane list is their secret, and perhaps that is the recipe for a successful marriage. Ladies, gentlemen, take note.

I think he gives his most important piece of advice in the very last sentence of the email: "As a married couple, you live as one, and try [to] know the other's needs. You don't agree on everything, but try and compromise." And there, ladies and gentlemen, is your secret to a "perfect marriage."

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