My 90 Year old Grandparents

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I’m delighted to share a little photo shoot I took of my 90 year old grandparents while they were here visiting me this past week.  Their love makes me so happy, and something I aspire to have with my husband. They’ve been married 68 years, and counting!

Anniversary couple pictures

I shared a little sneak peek of this session on Instagram, and got such sweet comments from everyone.  I’ve taken some nice couple shots of them throughout the past 10 years, never really knowing if it would be their last. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to have a fancy couple photo shoot, but I was inspired, and decided to do just that.  I don’t know her, but I was inspired by the idea of dressing them up, assembling an arrangement of flowers, and snapping some pictures. So I did.

couples photography

The weather was crummy and cold, but we braved it for 10 minutes to snap a few shots in a field near my home. If you look closely in the images, you can see the spittle of rain in the background.  My 9 year old daughter came with an umbrella to shield Grams hair when I wasn’t shooting. Grandma loves purple, so we went with that for her, and got grandpa this fancy hat and shirt, and he felt like a million bucks. He wasn’t so sure about the hat, but I loved it, and when I asked my coy Grams what she thought, I got a side glance, a grin, and an “I like it” from her, so it was a GO!  In the end, I’m pretty sure it helped him feel fantastically suave. It wasn’t my plan to do gray on gray, but that’s what he wanted, and I think he looks dapper.  Grams loves purple, so I whipped together a bouquet, and tied it with a strand of fabric from my stash, and she borrowed my purple cardigan with her own pinstripe shirt.

Anniversary pictures

As my grandparents were in town, our family started memorizing the scripture I shared that mentions heavy burdens, and how we can lean on the Lord so that those burdens can be light. I got emotional thinking about the heavy burdens that have been placed upon them in this life.

When my grandma was 17, her mother passed away suddenly. She got Lyme Disease from a tick. {Read more details about their childhood here.}

grandma at 90

If that wasn’t devastating enough, 2 weeks later, her appendix burst, and her family couldn’t afford the surgery to remove it. Fortunately, she survived, but found out when she got married that she’d likely never have children because her insides were all messed up from the burst. Grams grew up on a farm on the Utah/Wyoming border, in a home with no electricity, with 3 older sisters (2 that were deaf) and 2 younger brothers.  When she chose to leave home and pursue a nursing degree, her father wanted her to stay behind to help run the farm and help care for her two younger brothers. She had to make the difficult decision to continue on with her nursing degree, and hope her father would eventually understand.

She met my grandpa at a church square dancing activity. They were paired together, and months later, got engaged.

Grandpa also grew up in a small town, the only boy with a handful of sisters.

grandpa at 90

When he was 11 years old, a horse went crazy and landed on his leg. After blacking out, and shouting loud enough for a neighbor to hear, he was carried home and rush to their local facility. They thought the best option was to amputate his leg, but his dad wouldn’t have it. They went to the big city and found a doctor that had other plans, and his leg was saved. Still, he’s had a limp all of his life. He wasn’t allowed to fight in World War II, which I see as a blessing, but was difficult for him at the time. 3 months after graduation, 3 of the boys that graduated with him in the Class of 15, had died in the war.

When grandpa met grandma, he introduced him to his mother. His mom was so impressed with her, she asked her son, “What are your intentions with this girl.” And he said, “I don’t have any intentions.” And she said, “then leave her alone.”  That shook him a bit to take it more seriously, and knowing how much his mother loved her, he caught the vision, and proposed.

68 years of marriage

After they married, she worked as a nurse and encouraged grandpa to go to school. He became an accountant with the Air Force. They thought they’d never have kids, but found a doctor that worked a miracle, and they were blessed with 2 daughters. The eldest, is my mom.

Grams has always been the quiet one, Gramps always has a story to tell, and no one is a stranger. It’s funny because I’d always known that about him, that he will strike up a conversation with a cashier, waitress, people we met at the airport, but I never realized how much I’m like him in that way. I love meeting new people, I love to learn life stories.  But Grams, he’s so suave. I worry sometimes that people won’t get his humor, then I hear him tell a joke and people LAUGH! And Grams just quietly smiles as he tells those jokes, he is the life of the party.  These grandparents of mine, are a perfect match.

Anniversary picture session

He’s always defended her, never allowed us as little kids to talk back to her, and been her biggest fan in all she does. He told me recently that it breaks his heart that she’s started to hunch over a bit, emphasis of the arthritis working on her joints. He loves her so much, I think he knows how blessed he is that she’s his wife.

anniversary photo session

They’ve been married 68 years, and counting.

Growing up states away, I don’t know that I ever had a chance to truly be close to them. We saw them twice a year for a week or two, and that’s it. In college, I took my friends there for weekends, and would spend my Thanksgivings with them. As an adult, we’ve kept up a near yearly visit, but it wasn’t until this time that I parted with them, that it hurt me a bit to say goodbye. They stayed with me for a week, my kids were in school, we had quite a bit of time to enjoy each others company without interruptions. They delighted in the excitement of a new lunch spots I’d take them, and I showed my Grams how to work her ipad and keep up with her grandkids on Facebook. My grandpa kept saying, “I’ll never forgive you for taking such good care of us” he’d get a tear in his eye, and squeeze me in a hug, as I’d get a tear in my eye, too.

my grandparents

It made me so happy to get such a warm reception from everyone on Instagram when I shared pictures of our week together, thanks for caring! I think we all can resonate with lasting love, and the desire to have what they have.

All in all, their life is a testament that Love is a verb, it’s action. It’s putting the needs of another in front of your own. It’s selflessness, it’s kindness.

I don’t want to just survive 68 years of marriage with my husband, I want to embrace it, and with them as my example, I hope I can do just that.

how to stay married 68 yearsMore stories of my grandparents:

90th Mason Jar Party

Painting picture frames

You’re My Butter Half

My other Grams Waited for Me

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Comments

  1. Jacqueline says:

    Love, love, LOVE this! What an awesome idea! I’m guessing there aren’t many photo shoots featuring the elderly, but there should be! (Complete with suave hat and pretty bouquet! 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      There doesn’t seem to be, hopefully this will spark something in others to capture their grandparents!

  2. What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing with us. The photos are lovely as are your grandparents. You are truly blessed.

  3. Looks like you all had so much fun!! Loved seeing them thank you for sharing your special Grandparents with us. 68 years is a long time to be married please tell them congrats!! Many many more.

  4. Lovely story.

    Just a correction: it is Lyme Disease.

  5. KJ,

    Great photos of the grandparents and nice accompanying story. You do such a good job week in and week out. You are truly a photojournalist. I love you lots.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks, dad. You are one of my favorite storytellers, too. Between you and Grandpa, I didn’t stand a chance to miss that gene!

  6. Beautiful!! Thank you for sharing such a lovely post and such heart-warming photos.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story of love. It blessed me so much to read not only your grandparents’ love story, but of your love for them as well. It truly brought tears of happiness to my eyes.

  8. Pearl Lambert says:

    I love this! I love the pix! you are so blessed and fortunate to still have grandparents. This is just beautiful, the story, the photos and the people. Thank you for sharing. I am gonna look for you on instagram 🙂

  9. Beautiful pictures! Makes me miss my parent. What a blessing! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Beautiful…their smiles are a true testament of what marriage can be.

  11. Oh I just love that!! So sweet!!

  12. Denise Waters says:

    I love, love, love the Balls. They are some of my most favorite people. We live just down the street from them. We moved in almost 14 years ago and Brother Ball was one of the first ones to introduce himself when we first came to church. He always has a sparkle in his eye and a smile on his face. Sister Ball is much more quiet except for when it comes to her family. She is always proudly telling us something that her grandchildren or even great grandchildren have accomplished. You are so lucky to have them in your life.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks so much for commenting, Denise! I love that you know and love them, too. Gramps does always have a sparkle in his eye, and Grams does love to share about her family. I do feel blessed, indeed. Make sure you tell them you saw these pictures when they get back, they will be so delighted!

  13. I LOVE these!!! Beautiful, beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing their story – such an inspiration. I’ve always loved capturing and remembering stories of the past.

  14. Andrea Zachary says:

    I’m so glad you know how wonderfully lucky you are to have these sweet people in your life. What a blessing and a joy! And to have pictures that tell their story so beautifully. I don’t have grandparents any more and haven’t for quite some time. My husbands grandmother is 98 though. I would love to get some pictures of her like this. Thanks for sharing. Made me tear up and hope to be this couple for my grandchildren when the time comes!

  15. they are the cutest things ever! love all the stories..what amazing lives they have lived. 🙂

  16. melinda reyes says:

    Awh this is beautiful! I would love to do this for my grandparents too. They celebrated 60 years of marriage in December and I think this is a great idea for them. Thanks for sharing your post with us.

  17. This post made me miss my grandparents and seeing them together. My mom’s parents were so active in their church, and I can remember us visiting them, sitting in one of the front pews, when the choir would process to their places up front. I would always get a wink from my grandpa. My dad’s parents had us visit every summer for a couple of weeks. I loved our time on the farm. My dad’s mother is still with us, and we are planning her 90th birthday party.

    Thanks for sharing your grandparents’ story. It’s so important to connect ourselves to generations that paved the way for us.

  18. What a truly fantastic story you shared! I’m sure this is one post you will cherish forever!
    And those pictures…THE BEST!!!

  19. just adorable! I love this photo session, thanks for sharing it Kristen 🙂

  20. Really enjoyed these photos and the stories you shared about your grandparents!

  21. I absolutely love this!!!! They look amazing, you did a fabulous job. What a great memory to have, so timeless!

  22. There’s a lot of love in those photos! They are so sweet.