If my dad were still alive today would be my parents 66th wedding anniversary. He died in September of 1974 just a few months shy of 28 years of marriage. If you do the math you'll know Mother has been a widow a lot longer (38 years to be precise) than she was a wife, a fact which makes me really sad. I think about all the years and things they missed out on as a couple because of stupid, stupid heart disease. At the time, he needed a quadruple by-pass, something that today, while still serious, is so much more treatable.
In their twenty eight years of marriage my parents experienced a lot but I'd like to think the highlight was the birth of three children, the first in 1947, the second in 1950, and last (and best!) in 1957. After the births came a lifetime of birthdays and Christmases, first days of school, lost teeth, learning to ride bicycles, swimming lessons, Little League, ballet, and family vacations. As parents together, they witnessed:
... their oldest child graduate from high school, get married, be drafted into the army, and produce two grandchildren.
... their oldest daughter graduate from high school, join the work force, experience a marriage misstep and then get a second chance, this time with the right guy.
... their youngest daughter work her way through the elementary years and enter into her teens.
And then suddenly in the blink of an eye life changed. Their time together was cut short just before my high school graduation. My daddy was gone and my mother was left to carry on alone.
Mother saw me through the college years, the time as a career woman, and finally a marriage that some thought might never occur. She saw three more grandsons be born. She witnessed the marriage of two of her grandchildren and the birth of four great-grandchildren. She worked hard at a career started in her middle age years. She survived selling a home and buying a new one. She traveled abroad. She bought new cars. She retired. And finally, just this year, she knows the pride that comes from having a college graduate, though it came in the form of a grandchild instead of a child. I always told her if she wanted that college diploma so bad she should go back and get one herself. She chose to leave it up to the grandkids.
I am now older than my mother was when she became a widow and just celebrated my own 25th wedding anniversary. Today as I reflect upon how short their time was together I think about my own marriage and the life we've built together. I think about how easy it is to get wrapped up in everyday life and take for granted the gift God has bestowed on me - having a mate to love and cherish.
Mother has told me that if she had known that their time together would be cut short she would have done some things differently. But then, isn't that how we all often feel after reflecting on the different stages of our pasts? It doesn't matter if the stage has changed due to a death or a simple changing of a "season," life can be full of "could haves, should haves, and would haves" if we allow it. We must remember we are imperfect people living imperfect lives and it's our choice as to how we live these lives and our choice on how we look back on them. We must decide whether to cling to the past or let go and claim "live and learn" as our motto. We can be filled with regrets, dwelling on things we should have said or done, or we can choose to simply cherish the memories of time gone by.
Today I choose to celebrate the anniversary of my parents. I am thankful for the life they gave me and for laying down foundations of faith and family. I'm also thankful for the memories, many of which have faded with time, but will always live on in my heart. Happy Anniversary Mother and Daddy, I love you!
I wish I had a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Sadly there are none due to one of those darn unlucky life happenings. Even worse, right now I can't even come up with one photo of my parents together. I think the next time I'm down visiting with my mother I better pull out her box of pictures and start scanning!