The first day of spring, the vernal equinox, a day we equate to rebirth and renewal. The weather has begun to warm, the days are becoming longer and our spirits are lightened with the lengthening of the day and the rebirth surrounding us. March 20th, 1948 was a Saturday, a day that my parents had hoped would slip by in anonymity, the day they chose to be married. Wed in a little country church that no longer exists, surrounded by family and friends in a celebration bigger than they expected. The “old woman” married the boy, she was just shy of 30 and he was all of 22, somewhat scandalous for the times I suppose. Today would have been 68 years, they celebrated 60 together before my mother passed away. The last anniversary they shared in 2008 my mother was positively giddy, they had been separated by various health issues since early February of that year with my father coming home from the nursing home for a brief visit to celebrate their anniversary. I have no knowledge of any photographs being taken the day they married, what I do have are pictures from later in their marriage when they had already moved to Ohio, a few rare photos before I was born. There are of course pictures from their last anniversary together, physical reminders that aren’t pretty. They show a couple winding down, clinging to the very threads that bind them to this earth. My mother had been bedridden or wheelchair bound for almost six years at this point, after falling and breaking her hip in 2002, it was only then that we found out just how bad her bones really were and my dad was recovering from heart surgery. It’s hard for me to look at these pictures, I see the suffering in my mother’s eyes, blinded by diabetes and her body filling up with fluids from congestive heart failure, so much suffering for her and the thing she complained about the most was the pain her hip caused. She was talking to those long dead by this point and had I any real prior experience with a death close to me I would have known what this meant but life is it’s own teacher and you learn.
My dad was happy but distant at this reunion, he had been focused on my mother’s health for so many years that it took a different kind of toll on him, I suspect in some ways he accepted this as atonement for past sins. He eventually told me when he was recovering from his heart surgery that since my mother’s fall they had made peace with each other, how could they not have when they refused most outside help except for mine and then with reluctance and disdain for having to depend on someone else. They were together for the last six years almost 24/7 and even when they were separated by illnesses a vigil was kept at hospitals and nursing homes. I don’t know what it’s like to lose your dignity, I only know what it looks like from the outside and this was harder for either of them than any physical illness, especially my independent father. I became their lifeline and in turn, my family became mine, I am indebted to them for keeping me as sane as possible during those years.
I have a favorite picture of my parents, taken in our kitchen when they were so very young, neither one of them is looking at the camera but to me it speaks of their bond to each other, born of a different time, joined in a union that was until death they do part, determined to see it through to the end, and they did. I miss them today, I miss them every day. Love you, Mother and Daddy.