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Positively Speaking: Valuable philosophy of an old coal miner

Positively Speaking: Valuable philosophy of an old coal miner

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On May 31, 1975 at 1:15 p.m., I was sitting with my friend Rob at the Sunshine Tap in Traer, Iowa, eating a hamburger, fries and washing it down with a Pepsi. I was wearing cut off blue jeans, an old white T-shirt with Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps emblazoned across my chest and sandals.

Around the corner and across the street in Taylor Park, there was a hundred or so people beginning to gather for a wedding that was set to begin at 2 p.m. — a mere 45 minutes later.

The bride’s father was nervous and pacing in his tux. With each passing moment he’d check his watch, look out across the park and mumble something inaudible.

I asked for the check, paid the tab, then Rob and I began our short walk to the park.

As we crossed the street, I saw the father of the bride rushing towards us. “I can’t believe this!” He growled as he approached. “I didn’t think you were going to show.”

I looked at Rob. “Doesn’t it begin at two o’clock?” I asked.

“Where’s your tux?” He demanded with increasing anger.

“In the car. I’ll get dressed now.” I quickly walked away to my 1972 green Pinto and dressed outside the car. I was half amused and half intimidated, but at 2 o’clock sharp I was there as promised and waiting at the alter for Arlene.

That was more than 46 years ago, and we are still married. Her dad grew to forgive my casual approach to the beginning of my life with his daughter, thankfully. Fast forward 46 years ...

Three grown children, two grandkids and a life together has passed before the blink of our eyes. How can this be? Where does the time go?

Aging and a bad health diagnosis has me pondering what this life is all about. I keep coming up with this:

“Life is about who we love, who loves us in return, and what we build together.”

What else is there? An accumulation of stuff? Accomplishments? Money? It all seems so important at the time but as time passes and we look back on it all, it’s meaningless. Who we love, who loves us in return and the life we build together is everything.

I believe too many marriages begin without commitment. “If it doesn’t work out, there’s always divorce,” I heard a bride say a few years ago. Yes, it’s easy to give up and move on. It’s harder to stick with it, push through the problems and make it work. And yes, I understand there are some relationships that cannot be fixed and it’s necessary to move on from violence and abuse, along with a few other reasons, but I believe most divorces are premature and often unnecessary.

My grandfather was a coal miner. He had a saying, “Stick and stay and make it pay.” I asked him what it meant, and he said, “Young men often quit after their first day or two in the mine. Fear of a shaft collapse or just the sickening experience of breathing the thick black dust often cause them to quit. Stick and stay was the advice the old timers would give.”

I realize that advice is applicable to almost everything in life, including marriage. If you loved each other enough to get married, love each other enough to stick with it and make it work. Don’t give up.

Our marriage has been far from perfect, but we stuck with each other. We committed to building a life and family together. We smoothed out the rough edges over time. Mistakes were made, worked out and we learned from them and here we are 46 years later, married and happy.

Maybe life really is only about who we love, who loves us in return and what we build together. And you know what? I think it’s more than enough.

— Gary W. Moore is a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at

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