This weekend my parents will celebrate their 34th Wedding Anniversary. And in their honor, I am going to speak of their love. I say “speak of” because I won’t be able to capture the enormity of it. But I can try. Yet before I do that… Mom and Dad, I love you. tears. Your love has been the place where I have grown into being. Your love has been the love that gives me hope that one day I will look at your son-in-law and really know him.
(Wedding Photo: Creteau's Studio)
They met each other in high school. He was raised on “the farm”. She grew up on the beach. He played the guitar. She held the record for the high jump. They married at age 18 and 19. Soon, he built with his own hands their home. And they would sleep a few nights in a room made of 2X4’s and tarps. With the help of their family, they then built a business together… a coffee shop. This coffee shop grew, and became a restaurant. Really, the ONLY restaurant in town. Long hours, hard work, and little to take home. But the restaurant was like a family.
And then came me... and then came my sister. And I was stinkin PERFECT. And ADORABLE.
Well, really, I bet I was a whole lot less than that. I’m sure I was a screamy little whiner. But my sister... she really was ADORABLE and PERFECT (I think so sis :) ).
They still worked REALLY hard, and the restaurant grew and grew. At one point, they opened up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This restaurant was a blessing and a curse. The blessing: the employees became family members, and the customers became friends. But, there was a whole heck of a lot a' junk that came with it. My Dad has these incredible jaw bones that pop out when he’s stressed. He clenches his mouth so tight you can see them 100 feet away. And let’s just say that they probably came out every day. In fact, the restaurant might have killed him had he stayed with it more than the 27 years that they did. At one point, he actually passed out on the kitchen floor.
My mom was the “hostess with the mostest”. She had to smile even when her husband was a basket case… even when they had a negative and people needed to get paid… and even when they drove employees to the hospital after getting their fingers sliced off on the meat slicer. And when you serve over 800 breakfasts between 7:00am – NOON, you employ a ton of people, and have many mishaps. Enough to drive you to drink. Which, my father did.
I’m sure there were times in their marriage they wanted out. I’m sure I only know a fraction of their struggles, their heartbreaks, their mistakes. But they hung on.
They journeyed towards God and towards each other. My mom brought us to church while dad worked at the restaurant. But I remember, even though it was years and years ago, a birthday that my Dad had. And as he blew out his candles, tears ran down his cheek. Cause it was a good year. He had met Jesus. And that was changing things. And now they had this faith that they could share. And they were growing together.
My Dad stopped drinking. He started to go to church with us, even though Sunday morning was the busiest day at the restaurant. They REALLY loved us kids, and learned how to be parents. Money was still tight, restaurant business was still hard, they still made mistakes, even big ones... but they were trying to connect to the Being who was behind all beings.
When I was in my teens, I remember blushing when my parents would “smooch” in the kitchen in front of my friends. Or when my dad would give mom’s fanny a squeeze. I remember them going for afternoon cruises in the car. I remember them getting really upset with each other. And I remember their laughter.
In high school, I remember their support of us “kids” together. My Dad was the best “ball boy” at my soccer games, and my mom was the loudest “hootin’ hollerer” on the field. The LOVED routing us on together. I remember there was a time when they really worked on their relationship. Dad would look at my sister and I and say, “I love your mother more now than I have ever before.”
I remember when the four of us would go out for dinner… Mom would of coarse be the LAST one out of the house… and as she’d make her way to the car (where we were all waiting), Dad would say, “Isn’t Mommy beautiful?” My sister and I just didn't understand at that moment how beautiful that really was.
When my sister and I were in college, my parents developed the “empty-nest-syndrome.” Life without us kids took a bit of adjustment. But they started to take on projects together. They started to dream together (like they had always done… but now the dreams were for just the two of them). They sang together. They adventured together. My Dad would build something, and my Mom was so proud. “Did you see what Daddy did honey? Yeah, he whipped that up in no time.” And then… they worked through something else.
My mom was diagnosed with a good case of Breast Cancer. “Good” in a “not-so-good” way. The mammograms hadn't detected it as soon as they should have. And her treatment was pretty aggressive. Double-mastectomy. Chemo. The whole bit. My mom was so tough. Too tough actually. She grew up under the roof of alcoholism, as one of six children. She learned at a young age to be tough. But her “tough” also took on the name “independent”. And she just wouldn’t let on to how “tough” it was. But my Dad knew. He was her home, her safe place. He was the one who could "see".
When they owned the restaurant, my Mom was known as Farrah Fawcett. She has this gorgeous blonde hair, she can’t gain weight if she tried, and her smile is larger than life … well…. she's just plain beautiful.
I have NEVER known my mother to be vain. She never thought of herself as better than others because of her beauty. But I know that it must have been so hard to look in the mirror and see a woman who once had this long flowing blonde hair, and now see a bald head. I remember watching her as a little girl as she so gently put on her eye-makeup. But now there were no eye lashes. And as she looked down, she saw rib ... and two large scars.
I was watching TV a few months ago, and happened upon the movie, “The Family Stone”. The movie features a family “going through” breast cancer, and eventually the death of their mother. There is a scene in the movie that is one of the most breath-taking I’ve ever seen. Diane Keaton, who plays the mother, and Craig T. Nelson (you know, he’s “Coach” on “Coach”), who plays her husband... are laying in bed next to each other. They are talking about life. And death. She’s scared. They hold one another and weep. And she opens up her shirt, as she looks over at him. There is nothing but huge scars and tears. And she places his hand on her chest.
I sat watching that movie and cried and cried.
That was them. That was my parents.
I remember when my Mom was her “sickest”. And I remember that Dad loved her more. More than he ever had. And he thought she contained more beauty than ever before. I remember Thanksgiving of the year of her surgery and treament. My Dad said, “grace”. He stood up in front of our extended family… and said.. "God…"
And that’s all he could say.
He still had his beautiful bride. We still had our mom. And their love was on fire.
Their love is like the house they built… with their hands they laid the foundation, and with their strength they hammered the nails. And when it thunders and rains, they fix the leaks in the morning. The house is a construct of addition on addition. And each year, it grows in beauty and grace. Walls are torn down to make for more room. If you were to ever walk into their home... you would want to stay forever. For they would make a place for you by the fire, and they'd fix you some tea. And the beauty would seep out from the walls.
When my husband and I got married, my parents did a “skit” for us at the reception. It was to Sonny and Cher’s “I got you babe”. So, in honor of them…
Untitled from jenny stevens on Vimeo.