My parents grew up in exciting and changing times. But one principle that carried into their generation and was understood by most is this: marriage truly should be, " 'til death do us part". They took their vows seriously and, to my knowledge, never looked back.
I do recall a time or two when there were hushed whispers, disagreements, tears, and frustrations. But through it all one thing was abundantly clear: our father loved our mother, and she him!
Certainly it was tough raising 6 kids, especially in the turbulent '60's and '70's. Dad worked long hours, often 3rd shift. Mom stayed home to cook, clean, and watch over us. My father and we children gardened, raked, built a house, planted trees. Mom canned endless quarts of tomatoes and washed our soiled laundry, hanging it in the sunshine to dry. She wiped our noses, cleaned our messes, changed our diapers, and ran us to school when we missed the bus.
They took us to church and taught us about God. Dad instilled a deep appreciation for nature in all of us, and to this day I clearly see the hand of a loving father, both heavenly and earthly, as I take in His creation.
I only remember one vacation as a family, but my father greatly enjoyed taking his children on extended bike trips and weekends "up north", never for too many days as he wanted to be home with his treasure, his bride.
Extended family was important and so we often spent time with loving grandmothers, aunts and uncles, and enjoyed time now and then with people from the close-knit community in which they, and we, were raised. There was a very strong sense of community then, sadly now largely lost, and of devotion to family. Pie and ice cream socials, 4th of July fireworks, picnics at Gram and Pops', parades, school concerts, Tobacco Days, Saturdays at Grammy's, Uncle Russell's laughter... all parts of the fabric of our lives. We enjoy countless memories, precious gifts which our parents gave by immersing us in the lives of others, even those who had been before. Warm, wonderful memories of people long since gone, but no less loved in the present than when they were with us! (Tears are flowing even as I write; oh, how I miss those dear folk!)
And here I sit, now 50 years old and 26 years into my own marriage. Our children are growing way too fast, the years evaporating into memories both good and bad. And as I visit my parents in that far away land called, "home", on trips too few and far between, I observe my parents in their "twilight" years. (I do *not* like to think of them this way!) I want them to always be there. I want to re-live so many of the memories, ache to go back in time to rake leaves with my father, sing with him, bike with him, kite with him, talk with him, listen to him. To show my mother the things I did in school, make picnics in the back yard, watch birds from her kitchen window, and share another afternoon in the company of her, my Grammy, Uncle "Bub" and Aunt Alma, listening to the stories of life in the little village of Albion... but I can't.
So what stays with me and remains important are the memories. (Wouldn't it be nice if our brains worked like computers and we could capture those memories on dvd so that we could play them, over and over again, with our own families?) "Precious memories, how they linger..." We sang and played that lovely tune together many times, my father, sister Jayne and I, while Mother sat knitting in the next room, no doubt feeling the same emotions that I now experience.
I am certain that my father wishes he could do it all over again with my mother. Surely he would want to right the wrongs and savor every moment of love and laughter he had with her, and with his children... but he can't.
Recent years have been a little tough. Mom's health has not been so good, and her mind doesn't work quite the way it should. She forgets. A lot. She panics and worries. She gets a little sad, depressed even. Who wouldn't?! With the knowledge that time with the one you love is slipping ever so quickly away, along with the memories... When you don't always understand what is going on around you, wouldn't it make you sad and anxious too? I know it would me.
Mom was in a rehab center for an extended period of time last winter. She endured a very tough bout with a hip replacement gone bad, and Dad simply could not take care of her at home. I made the trip out in the middle of winter for a week so that I could visit with her every day and, while Mother now doesn't remember, I am so thankful to have been there! I brought her something special every day (including a nice scrapbook spread of my own family, all 9 of our kids and the two of us to put up on her wall- a rather large display). I sat with her and chatted about the events of the day, the children, all that was well (and wrong) with the world, and crocheted while she napped. When Dad would come, as he did every day, the three of us would reminisce and fuss over whatever needed fussing over at the moment. He was patient. He was kind. He was loving. Sometimes he was a little frustrated. Several evenings I was there to witness "good nights", which weren't so good. Mom didn't understand why she couldn't go home. She didn't want to be in that place, she wanted to be home where she belonged, in her own bed with her husband by her side, and how could he possibly leave her there?! It was a heart-wrenching thing to experience, and I often drove away in tears.
But this one thing was visibly clear to my siblings and I, and to all who were privileged to witness the interaction between my parents in that facility: our father loves our mother; there can be no doubt.
In our parents home is a sign that reads, "The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother." Ours did and does. Thank you Dad, we are all so grateful! And may the two of you love birds enjoy yet another anniversary in the company of each other, enveloped in sweet memories and the warmth of your love.