Grow Old With Me

So, the little salt and pepper shakers have been a matched set for 58 years now. 58 years. 5.8.  I mean, I don’t even know what to say for my parents’ anniversary this year … it’s not often I’m at a loss for words, as you all surely know by now. The lack of poetic flourishes notwithstanding, I’m awestruck at the feat – I mean, 58 years! But also their obvious devotion, which has been on full display even more recently. Oh sure, sometimes they seem more like Tom and Jerry than Ozzie and Harriet, but the love binding them together for all these years remains a force to be reckoned with. And no doubt the best is yet to be.

Valentine Musings

Exactly 1,792 years ago, in the Central Italian town of Terni, a little boy was born who would grow up to be the subject of over 150 million greeting cards a year, second only to those sent at Christmas. His name was Valentinus of Terni. As an adult he was quite good at converting the Romans to Christianity. This didn’t sit too well with the Roman Emperor Claudius. When the 43 year-old Valentinus politely refused the Emperor’s suggestion to stop converting Romans, Claudius had him beheaded on February 14th, 269.  Ahhh. Good times.

And that’s why on February 14th of every year we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving flowers, candy, jewelry, and greeting cards to those we love.  Yeah, I’m sorry. I just don’t see the connection.  It actually wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people started celebrating Valentine’s Day.  Now, here we are, centuries later, with the notion of gifting our loved ones with chocolates and over-sized bears a part of our cultural fabric, except for that brief, yet fun, period when insults were all the rage.

It starts in kindergarten. First, making a little construction-paper and doily covered mailbox to hold all our valentines – that was my favorite part, I’ll have to admit. Then exchanging little cards with each other, the teacher making sure that everyone got one. In grade school, we’d make construction-paper red and white hearts for our parents and a select few of our more crush-worthy classmates. In junior high (this was in the years before “middle school” became a thing), we became much more selective, and secretive, when acknowledging Valentine’s Day with classmates.  With high school (at least, my high school) came the single roses or carnations sold by the PTA for $2 a piece…flowers that would be delivered to the classrooms at some point in the day for all our fellow students to behold and admire.

As adults, we moved on to more serious gift giving. Last year, Americans spent $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts. I’m pretty sure that the majority of that money was spent on gifts to soothe ruffled feathers, hold on to troubled relationships, or for relationship “prospecting.” But hey, whatever moves the economy along and provides for 50% off candy the day after, I’m all for it. At least, the 50% off candy part.

As for me, I’m spending Valentine’s Day as a single person this year. Believe or not, I find it quite liberating.  Single adults have been emancipated from what I call “The Great Valentine’s Day Duty Dash.” You’ve all probably witnessed this great phenomenon. It is a double tidal wave of frantic people flooding CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and 7-11 stores across the country, desperately looking for something (preferably not too expensive) that they can give a significant other to celebrate a holiday that somehow was able to sneak up on them.

The first wave arrives on the evening of February 13th. They look like a horde of locusts stripping a Kansas wheat field. Candy, cards, cheap perfume, wine, flowers, teddy bears, candles, Gillette Venus shaving kits.

The second wave arrives around 5:00 PM on February 14th. Rush hour. The stores have desperately tried to restock the shelves, but not much is left.  People begin to realize that if they don’t come home with a Valentine’s Day gift, they might as well just not go home. When they discover that the last of the Snickers bars and My Little Pony Lip Gloss are gone, they fall to the floor and begin flipping about like tuna on the deck of a fishing boat.

As a single person, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. The angst of buying the “right gift,” or any gift, is gone. The decisions about the appropriateness or cost of a gift are non-issues. After spending more years than I would like to admit stressing out over being faulted on my gift choices – as well as my reaction to gifts given to me, I’m glad to have a break in the routine. When I was younger, I didn’t think it would ever be possible, but my experiences have dimmed the shine of cupids and hearts and hastily thrown together reservations at that candlelit Italian restaurant. And that’s okay too. That life was not all it was cracked up to be, trust me, and no amount of Valentine’s Day pageantry would’ve fixed it. I’ve since found that what I want in a relationship is something deeper, something real, something that doesn’t need to be glossed over with decorative red and pink trappings to keep it afloat.  Now, I have different romantic goals.

When my soulmate and I do connect on Valentine’s Day? It won’t be with heart-shaped boxes of candy and cards and cute stuffed animals or a reservation at that exclusive, yet somehow still overly crowded, restaurant with a fixed holiday menu. It will be with whiskey and action movies and dancing in the living room. And ice cream. Or cheesecake. I’m good either way.

The Adventure Continues

My parents’ 57th wedding anniversary is tomorrow – June 15th. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I think this might be the first year that I haven’t confused the date. It fell on Father’s Day one year, ages ago, and for me, I’ve equated the two ever since, making me perpetually late in wishing them a Happy Anniversary. Father’s Day changes every year, you say? No matter. You underestimate my ability to be wrong about something.

Hey, did you know there are traditional gift themes for each year of wedded bliss? First year is paper. Fifth year is wood. Twentieth year is china. Well, as far as I can tell, by year 57 all the ideas have been used up. By that time only the anniversaries ending in 0s or 5s get a themed gift. Seriously. On the list of “traditional gifts” the years skip from 55 right to 60.

My guess as to why that is: maybe whoever made the list felt that people grinding out 55 to 60 years of holy matrimony are too busy trying to not kill each other to really celebrate the honored day. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe by that point, not trying to choke each other is a gift in and of itself. “I didn’t suffocate you with a pillow this morning sweetie, Happy Anniversary! Want some breakfast?” Personally, I think 57 years of marriage—murderous thoughts notwithstanding—is one hell of an accomplishment.

The lists of traditional gifts often give an alternative modern gift for the couple who want to stay hip and with the times. For example, the first-year anniversary’s “modern” take on the traditional paper theme is clocks. How the two are related completely escapes me. Now while there isn’t a traditional gift for 57 years of wedded bliss, a modern alternative my parents have for celebrating their anniversary is a glass or a mirror. A glass, particularly of the decanter variety, I can understand. Giving each other something to hold the sweet nectar of alcohol or caffeine I can see as being invaluable to such a lengthy marriage. Sadly, my parents can have neither. So that’s a firm no on the glass option.

Mirror, it is. But really? A mirror? All I can really see my parents doing with a mirror is holding it up within an inch of the other’s face and saying, “SEE! I told you there was a smudge on your face! You just couldn’t believe me, could you? Noooo…of course not.” I’m not sure I want to be the purveyor of such a contentious gift.

Despite their individual secret schemes on how to plan what can only be described as the perfect murder, in real life my parents do what they can to keep each other out of the ground for as long as possible. Which is particularly good news for my dad. If anyone was going to kill an old man and get away with it, it would be my mother. That woman is nothing if not thorough.

I’ve often wondered what the secret is to a long marriage such as theirs. In an age when a marriage that makes it five years can be seen as “a good run,” there’s got to be something special to keep two people together for close to SIX decades. I believe that my brother and I were maybe that special ingredient in the glue that has bound them. No, not because their love for us created an unbreakable bond.  It was more than that. I think they decided years ago that whichever one of them asked for a divorce, they had to be the one to take the children.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us…still do for some crazy reason. It’s impressive really, given what we put them through. It’s just that together, they were strong enough to counter my and my brother’s daily foolish antics. They could commiserate late at night and bolster each other’s mental stability – “Did you SEE what that boy did? Just look!” “Oh well, that’s nothing on what the girl tried to get away with today…let me tell you!”  Ahh, there’s nothing like having a common enemy to keep people together.

At its essence, having each other’s back is their mainstay – their rock. Sure, they may squabble and they may pick at each other, but my dad still makes my mom her coffee (decaf these days) every single morning before heading out to the backyard to feed her feathered friends – I mean, hey, she needs company while she sits on the deck, having her morning cup of joe. In return, she makes sure his meds are always in order and that he has his fishing hat when he goes out on the water so his shiny bald head doesn’t burn.  And god help the outsider who speaks ill of either one of them.

 

Endurance

So. My parents celebrate their 56th year anniversary today.  I’ll repeat.  That’s 5 – 6.  Fifty Six.  In an age of disposable marriages as easy to come by as disposable spoons, my parents have racked up fifty-six years. Perhaps that’s because in “their day” commitment meant something other than the asylum (although really, if you ever went to their house, especially when my brother and I were young, you’d think they were already in one) and true to their word, my parents have lived up to the definition.

Personally, I think this staying power is in large part due to infinite patience…my mother hasn’t killed my father yet and strangely, seemingly has no plans on doing so. Although in all likelihood, no-one would be surprised if she ever were to snap.

Instead, once a week, she takes an hour to count out all of the medicine he needs for the week and puts them in a sectional pill holder (and this, in addition to monitoring his diet) in a never-ending attempt to keep him around even longer. For his part, my father still opens doors, holds my mother’s hand across the parking lot to keep her footing steady, and buys her little unexpected culinary treats when he ventures to the store alone. I sincerely admire the fortitude and dedication they each extend to the relationship and the love that has endured despite the struggles they’ve shared throughout the years.

They are my rock. My sun. No matter what is going on in my world, they are the one thing I can count on as being solid, even if they are having a “nit-picking” day.

Happy Anniversary to you both!

old couple

Priorities

While I wait patiently for my true love, I’ll do my duty and share this very important public service announcement.  I knew you wouldn’t want to miss the real meaning of happiness associated with Valentine’s Day. Candy. On sale. Just so long as it’s not those dreaded candy hearts.  Yuck.

 

valentine candy sale

Wedded Bliss Redux

This is a repost (a revisit more like) from last year around this time and I was late then as I’m late now. I will once again apologize to my parents because it seems like every year I equate their anniversary with Father’s Day. So this year, I was expecting it to be this coming weekend and it’s not.  It was yesterday.  So I missed it. Again. I don’t know why I can’t keep the two days straight and separate. Every year since the dawn of time I’m reminded (after the fact) that I’m indeed wrong — it may fall on Father’s Day once in a blue moon, but not always.

And I don’t think being the favorite child is going to get me out of continually forgetting this fact (considering just how long it has been now).  But I will beg for mercy and just remind my folks once again that out of all their children (all 2 of us), I am their most beautiful, favorite, loving, smartest, (and above all) modest, and least high maintenance, least annoying child…and that should count for something, right?  Right!?

And oh yeah, I love you guys — more than anything.

 

Here’s to Wedded Bliss:

It’s unfortunate that this is a not-very-odd conversation these days:

Friend 1: Did you hear? Sue and Jeff are getting divorced?

Friend 2: Wow, how long have they been married?

Friend 1: Five years!

Friend 2: Well, at least they gave it all they had.

Yes, friends, sadly people these days hold on to cars and computers longer than they do marriage licenses. In the days when so-called role models treat “commitment” with less respect than a pinky swear (Britney Spears’ marriage, 55 hours. Kim Kardashian’s second marriage, 72 days) what couple can be expected to last long enough to see if the seven-year itch actually exists?

My parents, that’s who. Yesterday (which was not Father’s Day) was my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary.  That’s right.  55 years.  If you’ve never read the “The Lockhorns” comic strip before, do yourself a huge favor and Google it (or click on the picture below). You’ll quickly get the premise:  an old married couple that does nothing but complain about each other, but in their insults is a special kind of love (you have to look deep, but it’s there, I swear). My parents, they’re my live action version of The Lockhorns; the sort of couple that practices the Old School style of marriage. The kind where they may bicker and nag and nit-pick and groan through each and every day, but when one of them holds out their hand, the other is still there to grab it. They’re like those cute salt and pepper shaker sets that fit together. My Dad makes my Mom’s daily coffee.  My Mom makes my Dad’s fishing trip lunches. They just go together. Not to mention they’ve developed a sort of non-verbal, thought-reading kind of communication that is amazing to witness.

Over half a century with one person is definitely something to admire but it’s made even more so given the throwaway society we seem to live in. Whatever their secret, be it love or simply tolerance or a smooth balance of both, my parents are an inspiration. Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

 

Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Eternal Love

Everyone knows I’m a bit strange when it comes to love stories.  I’m drawn to the “odd” ones you find in horror movies or action flicks…yet I also feel a kinship to those told through tales like Pride & Prejudice and The Notebook.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to like every chick flick out there though…there aren’t too many chick flicks I do like actually.  For a while now I’ve been seriously crushing on Ava and Boyd from Justified and hoping their relationship survives the season finale. If you don’t watch the show, suffice it to say they’re not your average couple. They’re more along the lines of a criminally hardcore Bonnie and Clyde. As I said, I’m a bit off. That’s okay. I embrace my weirdness.

But back here in the real world, who doesn’t want eternal love? It does exist. I’ve seen it. My parents for one. They’ve been married just shy of forever and while they bicker, they still hold hands to cross the parking lot. I’ve also seen it with my grandparents who met later in life (it was a second marriage for my Grandmother whose first husband, my Mom’s father, died in the mines), but most definitely married for love. My Grandfather had his hands full with my Grandmother (she was a spitfire and then some) and he loved her all the more for it. I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have done for her.

And then I came across this article today, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure the newspaper planned it that way on purpose. A feel good story for Valentine’s.  But truly, it is indeed inspiring.  For here are the stories of individuals whose love is so strong that it withstands all odds – for even when their better half is lost within themselves so deeply that they cannot remember the shared love, the lives intertwined, or even their own names – the devotion never wavers. Alzheimer’s Disease is a horrendous illness.  It invades your mind; it steals your memories. But the men profiled in this editorial are not willing to let go of their wives to the likes of Alzheimer’s, because while their spouses may not remember, they do.  If that’s not eternal love, I don’t know what is.