“We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.” –Henry Ward Beecher
In June of 1973 I was born to two people whom I love dearly. This was to be the beginning of two of the most complicated relationships I have had to date, though none of us knew it at the time.
My parents were married on January 8th, 1972…Elvis’ birthday…or the day he died? At any rate, Elvis reminds me of parents’ anniversary every year. Elvis is good for little else.
I’ve never understood what drew my folks to one another. One might read that last line and think that I am being ungrateful or indelicate, but allow me to be clear: I am so thankful for my parents, for giving me life, and providing me with a stability at home that some never enjoy. Regardless how tough times got, my brothers and I always knew we had a warm place to live, meals to eat, and parents who loved us to their best understanding of the concept. I only mean I’ve never understood their attraction, they’ve always seemed so different to me. It must have been something strong because they’re still together to this day. I have come to learn that that kind of commitment renders all hair-splitting moot.
My mom was born into a stable family. She came late. Her brothers and sisters were all but grown. Her oldest niece was only one year my mother’s junior. She was, what is known (at least in polite society) as, a change of life baby. Mom relayed to me that this made her childhood home a very loving and secure environment. There was never a lack of care providers between her brothers and sisters. I believe they numbered 2 boys and 2 girls. I’ve only met them a few times in my life, and they all seem like good, solid citizens. As idyllic as this set-up would seem to the casual observer, it was by no means perfect. My mother has never complained about her childhood (that I can recall), but she has said that there was an unspoken expectation to “perform”, to put the best foot forward, to fake it ’till you make it. When I imagine the circumstances that led to my folks’ commitment to one another, I am tempted to wonder if that pressure pushed my mom toward the young trouble-maker she’d one day marry.
My dad was the oldest born son in a family that would eventually include 2 more boys and 5 girls (I think)…he was not the oldest of his siblings, he had an older sister. I think, if one were to consult his druthers, he would like to have been born first…regardless the sacrifice. To hear stories of dad’s youth one might think that, in a town so small, populated with so many ne’er do wells engaged in varying makings of consternation (in the estimation of local law enforcement), a deal had once been struck between the town’s founders and the devil himself. The specific impetus for my father’s assholery is far less mysterious (my dad considers himself proudly among the ne’er do wells). He had a need for attention that his folks were either unable or unwilling to satiate in any way that resembled: healthy. I’ve had a few occasions to meet his parents and I can report, with confidence, that my childhood was a lot more loving than my dad’s.
As though God wanted to give us more evidence of his faithfulness…and his sense of humor, my folks found each other and made a family. They made a difference. They are partially to blame for who I am. My dad’s strong work ethic, my mom’s stubbornness, my mom’s optimism, my dad’s realism, my mom’s sense of justice, my dad’s willingness to help whomever, whenever, wherever (with only the tiniest bit of complaining [generally])–all of these attributes conspired to be the foundation of the man that I am…for good, or ill. They’re not just responsible for me and my family. They’re also culpable (at least part so) for my 2 younger brothers who’ve made great families in their own right. This all because two lunatics were crazy enough to think they could make a run at: “till death do us part”. It’s hard to imagine. But if imagining it were easy, there’d be no reason left to try it.
Happy Anniversary George and Charleen.