Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cheers for 40 Years!

On a hot July day in 1972, a young nurse and a guy who had graduated from college a month or so before, met in front of the altar at St. Ann’s Church in Hamilton.  The bridesmaids wore long-sleeved red dresses with white polka dots.  The groom and groomsmen looked handsome, if a little sweaty.  The bride with her long, blond, straight hair was beautiful.  And brave and strong.  Her dad had passed away in April, and her brother gave her away. 
They said “I do” and their journey together continued.
That was forty years ago today.  That couple is my parents. 
Each marriage is its own story, the truth and heart of that story known only by two people.  The highlights of my parents’ story:  four houses, five children, three sons-in-law, two (almost officially) daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren and counting, plenty of communication, compromise, teamwork, forgiveness, laughter, and love.  Good times, bad times, sickness, health, poorer, richer. 
The story of what my parents’ marriage has meant to me and my siblings can be told in one word:  everything.  As a kid, it gives you comfort, security, and confidence to know that your parents are always going to show up, for each other and for you.  Whether we needed a pep talk, a sympathetic ear, a hug, a trip to Kroger for a new poster board, my parents were there.  Still are, though there is less need for poster board these days.  We got to every practice, lesson, game, match, and meet and had our mom and/or dad there cheering for us.  A miracle of teamwork, communication, and transportation if there ever was one, especially considering how often my dad’s job required him to travel. 
My parents have always prioritized family time, whether it was a beach vacation, a quick trip to McDonalds after mass, a drive to Flub’s, a surprise outing to Chuck E. Cheese or Kings Island (almost thirty years later, I can remember the thrill of such surprises), or Thursday night with all of us piled onto the big blue sectional watching some TV or laughing together.  I am so thankful to my parents for giving us so many happy memories and, most of all, for being present.
In a couple of weeks, my husband and I will celebrate nine years of marriage, a drop in the bucket compared to forty, so I’m hesitant to lay claim to too much matrimonial wisdom.  What I will offer is that you know when you say “I do” that it won’t be all sunshine and wedding cake and smiling for photos.  You understand you are on the hook for the bad times, the poorer, the sickness, but you’re hoping you’ll get off easy.  But whatever each moment, day, month, or year brings, you do your best to say “I do.”  I’m here.  I’m with you.  I’ve got your back.  We’re in this together.
I can’t thank my parents enough for saying “I do” over and over in their words and actions.  They’ve said yes to each other and their family in times of small commission checks, failed sump pumps, endless nursing home visits, tuition bills, and cancer.  Together, they’ve said goodbye to four parents.  On the flip side, they’ve shared the joy of games won, graduations, weddings, births, and countless other small and joyful moments. 
Though they have different but complementary personalities, my parents share a sense of compassion, generosity, loyalty, and steadiness.  When friends and family members have struggled with illnesses, losses, and other challenges, my parents have been strong enough to offer love, support, and welcome.  Together they are truly a light for the world.  
Love shared and given away somehow grows and multiplies.
Each marriage is its own story.  Some stories are longer than others, with different lessons, endings, and kinds of love.  I treasure all these stories and feel blessed to have been born three chapters into one of the really good ones.
Many, many years ago, a little girl named Kathy was riding her bike and fell off.  Supposedly, a little boy named Kevin laughed at her.  Who knew that one day they would be high school sweethearts?  Who knew they would get married and stay married for forty years and counting?  Despite scrapes and falls and flat tires, life is funny and surprising and mostly good … especially when you choose the best companion you can and keep saying “I do.”
I do.  See you.  Hear you.  Remember you.  Support you.  Love you.
We do.  Learn from you.  Love you.  Congratulations on 40 years, Mom and Dad! 

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