Today, June 6, 2019, would have been my parents 66th wedding anniversary.
Over the years there were lots of stories told about their lives as children and teens, school and chores and their families. Dad was a storyteller and Mom was a talker. So we grew up knowing a lot about their lives.
I especially loved hearing the story of their wedding.
It was June 6, 1953. Both 21, Dad had served in the Air Force in Korea during the Korean War, and after he got home to Marion, North Carolina he moved up to Toledo, Ohio to work with his uncle, Wayne Lovingood. Dad had trained as a boiler engineer and also worked on radar in the Air Force, and he found a job working for Toledo Public Schools as a boiler engineer.
So like every other Friday, he worked his hours that week and then headed down to Marion to marry Mom. He made it there by Saturday morning, where I hope he at least had a chance to clean up and put on a suit. The ceremony was early in the day, followed by a cake and punch reception in the church fellowship hall. They changed clothes and packed Mom’s bags into Dad’s car and headed north.
This was long before I-75 was built, before there were chain restaurants in every town and along every highway. And in the mountains, the roads wound and twisted and were built for the purpose of getting from one place to another. Being fed and entertained weren’t high priorities. Even gas stations were few and far between. It was a time when they didn’t think to call long distance to make a reservation for the night, and the kind of drive-up roadside motels they would come across didn’t need them.
So Dad’s mom, my Mamaw, packed them up ham biscuits wrapped up in a paper bag. They hit the old Route 25, and by evening they stopped at a roadside stand for milkshakes to drink with their sandwiches. That was their wedding supper. They stayed the night at a motel on Saturday night, and Sunday they finished the trip to Toledo, where Dad went right back to work on Monday.
They lived in a couple different apartments, then bought their first house before my older sister was born. A younger sister was born there also, and the summer Mom was pregnant with our younger brother we moved out to the country. I remember driving on the highway, I-75 had been built south of us by then, but the bypass I-475 was just being built as we drove around town looking at all kinds of houses.
They settled on one that the radio station Dad worked at part time had bought to convert into a recording studio, and then decided it was too big a project. I remember visiting it several times before we moved, Mom up on ladders painting, us kids rummaging through boxes of treasures in the basement and attic, workmen knocking back out an archway they had filled it to make the studio in what was really the dining room of the house.
We moved into that house in July, and my brother was born in August, and I lived there until I got married.
It was many years before us kids realized what a wedding anniversary was, much less knew the date our parents got married. Eventually we caught on and started buying them a card and urging them to take us all out to dinner to celebrate.
But really the day was theirs to mark however they wanted.
When I was growing up it really was a different world. It was a rare thing for anyone I knew to be divorced. Marriage was something I looked at as a lifelong commitment, and through the sixties, in my community, it was.
Then things started to change in society and relationships. I won’t go into my ideas on what started the ball rolling, but roll it did, and in the seventies things changed in the world, and divorce became more and more accepted.
So every year when we celebrated Mom and Dad, I was more thankful that their marriage was still something I could count on.
Not that they didn’t have their disagreements, times of distance and preoccupation with all the details of life. I remember there was a popular song playing on the radio one day that I liked, and I was surprised to see my mom trying not to cry listening to it. It was “Torn Between Two Lovers”.
As you might think, the song is about a woman who loved two different men. So my mind went wild trying to figure out which of my parents’ friends my mom might possibly be interested in.
Thankfully she was just touched by the song, maybe an old memory, though she never explained it. And even though I wondered for years, there was never any reason to believe there were any serious problems in their marriage.
After seeing a number of people around me go through divorces, especially young couples, I resolved that I wouldn’t get married unless I would be willing to commit to never walking away.
That could be a very naive thing to do. From the perspective of my early 20’s I couldn’t foresee what kind of man I might get involved with. And I wouldn’t be in control of the things he may choose to do that could harm me, things I might need to walk away from.
I could, however, choose to be careful and thoughtful about who I would get involved with. And after I failed miserably in my choices time and time again, I turned the whole thing over to God, and he did a great job of bringing the right man into my life, the one I could stay married to for as many years as we live.
So this year, this day, would have been Mom and Dad’s 66th, and last fall my husband and I celebrated our 33rd. And Dad died a week after their 40th anniversary, Mom a few weeks after their 63rd. She never remarried.
All those numbers. Big ones. Significant ones. Because it is possible for love to not only last, but to grow and nourish us, even after the ones we love are gone from this earth.
And especially while we’re walking through this life together.