Thursday, September 6, 2012

The First 60 Years Of Marriage Are The Hardest

My parents met late one night when my dad crawled into my mother’s bedroom window behind her older brother. The first thing she heard him say was “how old’s your sister?” It turns out she was just 14 and wanted nothing to do with this older guy from Minnesota. Two years later they were wed, September 1952.

My mom and dad had their 60th wedding anniversary this week. Mom made light of it, claiming that all you have to do is live long enough, but I know something of their long struggles to get along and to raise and provide for six sons. They both had roles in their relationship that didn’t always overlap or sync especially smoothly, but they made it work when they could, and waited it out when they couldn’t.

Most of my memories of them are fun, warm recollections of all the good times and laughter over the years. They are good people, and while maybe not perfect, they were perfect parents for me. I want as much as ever to do right by them, and make them proud of who I am and what I do.


Sadly, at times the good times are over shadowed by dad’s health. He had a series of strokes almost 12 years ago that left him unable to move and unable to communicate. He wasted away and often had pneumonia over a couple of years, but my mom nursed him through it all. She learned to do all his therapy because his caregivers were largely uncaring. Mom has learned exactly how to position dad in his bed with pillows and pads in exactly the right places so he is as comfortable as he can be. She has fought all his battles with the administrators, and won most of them.
She spends two hours with him every morning, making sure he is up and bathed. She comes back every day at lunch time to make sure he is put down for his nap. She comes back for five or six hours every night to just sit with him, then to make sure he is put to bed for the night. She never fails, and after a dozen years, it still breaks her heart to leave him for the night.


The staff threw a delightful party for them. There was a marriage reaffirmation ceremony and gifts, lots of food and a beautiful cake. There were balloons and 80s music. I was one of about 70 people who watched, family, friends, people in wheelchairs. It was nice.
I asked my brother Jeff what we did for their 50th anniversary, and he couldn’t remember anything. “We must be bad children,” he said. “Well,” I said, “we may be, so let’s make sure to do something for their 75th anniversary.”

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