A Dad’s Point-of-View
Love and Marriage is a classic Sinatra song. Its lyrics truly seem quaint and decidedly old-fashioned today, but my parents lived a love affair that stood the test of time and incredible challenges. Their love affair was a model that was pretty hard for their peers to match and certainly impossible in my generation for both my wife and me and any of my married friends – at least those that I know well.
Let’s face it, how well do we know our married friends? Do you think they love each other or have an ongoing love affair? How many friends really open up and express the reality of what goes on behind closed doors? If couples were more open with one another, we’d all be better off learning and sharing about our relationships, money, sex, in-laws, job, kids, etc. But, most of the time, people don’t reveal their issues to others and that happy front encourages most of us to believe our issues are unusual.
Thankfully, we have reality television to counter that illusion. And, in my case, I had my parents to observe for over 50 years. They knew each other for 73 years, having met at a lake in Michigan when my mother was 14 and my father 17. They were married 66 years, until my father died at 90. My mother lived another year or so in despair, for the most part, taking some comfort from her one son and my two boys – her only grandchildren. Their marriage was the epitome of a love affair.
My boys didn’t have that amazing model of love that I observed my entire childhood and, from afar, in most of my adulthood. I saw a man that worshipped his wife. My father felt as strongly in love with my mother when she was somewhat disabled by a stroke, which changed her sweet disposition to a more sour one, as any other time during their decades together. His only fear about dying was not being around to take care of his beloved wife.
Theirs was also an old-fashioned, traditional marriage in which my father was the breadwinner and my mother the homemaker. Their life plans included having a family of five, but as we sadly know all too well, we make plans and God doesn’t always agree.
One of their very first challenges took place within the first two to three years of their marriage when my mother got tuberculosis and was bed-ridden for a full year. She lost partial use of one lung and that meant her stamina was reduced forever thereafter.
But, the thing that truly tested my parents was the loss of two of their three “planned” children. To me, there’s almost nothing more horrible than parents surviving their children. It just isn’t natural nor could it possibly be in God’s plans for us, though I don’t believe God actually impacts our daily existence meaningfully. That’s the whole concept of free will, a subject which I’ll leave to the religious scholars.
What’s not commonly known is that the death of a child often leads to the end of a marriage. There are so many powerful emotions going on during that turmoil. Because men and women grieve and deal with this tragedy in such different ways, many marriages simply cannot survive such a loss.
My parents survived it twice.
A baby girl died, before I was born, at about eight days old. Jacqueline Kennedy also lost a child in the same fashion when the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck during delivery causing partial suffocation from which the baby ultimately died.
At the time, my parents had a son, my older brother. Later, they had me when my older brother was 11. When I was five, he died in an accident – nobody’s fault – but lived on machines for a while, bankrupting my parents in the process. His death was kept from me in many ways since my parents were given, we all realized much later, very poor advice on how to help a young child cope with such a loss.
Not counting the many other challenges my parents faced, from financial struggles to ten serious illnesses and surgeries between them, the love affair never waned. The only time my father and mother were apart for a night was when one of them was in the hospital. They had lunch together every day. My father dutifully listened to my mother’s detailed description of her day at ever dinner meal. He spoke minimally but was enthralled by everything my mother did or said.
This Valentine’s Day, as with every year at this time, I reflect with wonder, awe, and longing at their incredible love affair. The wonder and awe is how they did it and sustained their feelings. I long to see them smiling at each other and wish they could see their two grandchildren growing up. But, I suspect they’re holding hands and watching us with pride somewhere above…
Such relationships are hard to find! Have you experienced or seen such a love affair firsthand? Share with us below.