Don’t tell me there is no such thing as true love.
Today is my parent’s 43rd wedding anniversary. Sadly, that in and of itself should be a huge achievement in today’s society. But I can go even bigger than that with their story…
My parents have known each other since elementary school. Their families knowing of each other and sharing friends for decades.
But it wasn’t until their 8th grade year that my mother’s secret crush on my father would become public.
As a kid, I would flip through the pages of their high school yearbooks. Always transfixed on who my parents were…
High school sweethearts.
They were the fairy tale.
Dad was Captain of the football and basketball teams. Mom was Captain of the cheerleaders and National Honor Society member. They were Homecoming King and Queen.
All of the stuff that teenage dreams are made of.
Things were not always as perfect as they seemed though.
But when you love someone, really truly love someone and fully commit your life to them –
Love can conquer all.
I remember dating in high school always looking for Mr. Right. After all, that was the example I had before me – so the assumption I made was that I would meet my future husband in high school. But in the 80’s most people were beginning to enter into the age of broken families. Divorce was much more prevalent out there in the world and finding someone who could wrap their brain around some of the ideals that I had been raised with was – frankly next to impossible.
My mother told me how she had never kissed anyone other than my father. That was mind-blowing to me. Honestly, it still is.
There are very few memories of growing up that my mother and father don’t share. They had front row seats to each other’s teenage years and were each other's biggest fans. They have been together since 8th grade. That is a beautiful thing. Something very rare and not to be taken lightly.
Their parents didn’t always agree that their relationship was something good. There were numerous ploys on my grandmother’s part to break them up. I’m still not sure what her reasons truly were – but she failed. Miserably. Thank God. Or I wouldn’t be here.
Upon high school graduation in 1965, my parents had planned to attend the same college together and each were going to study education. Mom wanted to be a 3rd grade teacher and my father a Physical Education teacher.
But somehow along the way my grandmother had other ideas for her son. She redirected his college attendance to another. Rather than attending the same college as my mother, his sweetheart, he was miles away at a different college.
For two weeks, my father would leave his campus and drive to my mother’s campus. My mother would look outside to find him there. Waiting. For her.
After two weeks, my father quit college. Altogether.
He enlisted in the Navy.
My mother attended college for the next 1 ½ years before she also quit.
But neither ever gave up on the other. Being together was always the goal.
Mom got a job and moved back home. My father spent his time as an enlisted man in the Navy. But they both completely trusted that the other would be there. They were each other’s motivation. The one thing that each could count on to be true.
Finally, my parents were married on June 1, 1968.
My grandmother still dead against the relationship. My mother held her breath on their wedding day that she would not stand up to protest the wedding.
Obviously, she did not. Even if she wasn’t happy about it. Even if she didn’t approve. She didn’t stand up and say so.
Dad was stationed in Virginia Beach. Mom and Dad moved and created their first home. They got their first puppy dog. Soon Dad would be shipped out onto a 10 month Mediterranean cruise.
The day that he left – they knew my mother was pregnant…
My mother returned home to live with her parents during the pregnancy.
I was due on November 22nd. But that date came and went. Back then there was no such thing as induction – especially in the Navy – so Mom waited it out.
In my baby book, there are telegrams that went back and forth between my parents to and from Dad’s aircraft carrier:
From Dad: “Baby?”
From Mom: “Not yet.”
My mother finally gave birth to me the day my father returned home from his cruise. It is our standing family joke that I was waiting for my Dad to come home. It is also the standing family joke that my father left without seeing my mother pregnant and returned without seeing my mother pregnant. He jokes about if I am even his child.
For many years, things were difficult between my mother and my grandmother. She still was unwilling to accept the relationship happily.
My mother recalled visits that my father would take me and visit his mother alone while she would stay home and cry.
Eventually, my parents moved to a home nearly 5 minutes from my grandmother. We began to spend much more time there.
Funny, that I am not sure when it happened – my mother might know – but she won the heart of my grandmother.
My mother continued to reach out. To try. To invite. To do all of those things that would make my grandmother proud of her.
Until my mother told me the story, I never knew.
I would have never known that my grandmother harbored any negative feelings toward my mother.
I had only been witness to a great affection between the two of them.
Several years ago my grandmother became ill with Alzheimer’s. My mother and father took her into their home until it became apparent that she needed more care than could be safely administered.
My mother went to visit her nearly every day. She took her nightgowns. Sweat suits. Her favorite foods. She read to her. Walked with her. Attended all of her doctor appointments.
As my grandmother’s illness progressed, she played baby dolls with my grandmother.
My mother continued to visit her even when it was evident that she no longer was aware of her place in time. Her world turned upside down and completely confused. Unsure of anything anymore –
But she still knew who my mother was. Her eyes would light up and she would smile with recognition at the sight of my mother.
Eventually my grandmother passed away and I watched my mother’s heart break.
As I encounter the tumultuous teenage years with my own children, I try to remember the story of my parents and my grandmother. How it all turned out. How things take time. How important it is to be patient and allow them to make their own decisions and their own mistakes.
Were things harder on my parents than necessary? Sure.
Could things have been easier on them with different decisions? Sure.
I can appreciate the fear that my grandmother must have had that this relationship was so important to her son at the age of 18…
I can appreciate that as a mother she might have had different hopes for her child.
But at some point, we hand the reigns over – don’t we?
We hold our breath and we wait.
And we never know how long it might take for it to all work out-
--if at all.
Now I can understand all sides of the equation back then, especially since I am a mother of teenage boys myself. I understand how all of it could have happened. It is a reminder to me how fragile the parent/teen relationship is. How volatile all emotions are during this time. So even when things may seem impossible while raising teenagers, I think of my life and family legacy...
Who would have ever thought that the very human being that had tried to keep two people completely and totally in love so very far apart – would have ended up in such a loving relationship with my mother?
Well that is simple.
My Dad knew that was who my mother was way back when they were kids. That is the person he fell in love with.
And because my mother loved my father with all that she was – she would work tirelessly to earn the love of his mother.
And because my grandmother loved her son, she was eventually willing to open her heart to my mother.
That is what love is.
And that is why their marriage has thrived for a majestic 43 years…
If everyone carried such belief, hope and love – how much better would our world be?
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! Thanks for showing me how to love someone…
And no matter what.
"True love is not measured by how much love is expressed, nor by the benefits of being loved, but by the depth of commitment that actually nurtured the relationship." ~Unknown