Present Tense

Dear Mom and Dad: thanks for the genes….

This week, my parents are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.  I’ll let that sink in.  They’ve been married for 70 years.  To each other.

They are also approaching their 91st birthdays.  When I tell people those facts, they always say, “wow, you’ve got some good genes”.  Quite honestly, that scares the crap out of me. I’m not quite sure that I want to live that long.  We’ll see if I feel that way when I’m 89.

But, this isn’t about me (yet), it’s about them.  They were both born in 1920, both lost a parent as teenagers during of the Great Depression, lived through the hardship and fear of WWII, raised 4 kids and have always been absolutely committed to each other.

Betty and Louie still live in their house on five acres right next to where my dad grew up on the family farm.  My mom once told me that my dad’s greatest wish is that they die together or a day apart.  He can’t bear to think of life without my mom.  He and I have that in common, I guess.

I’m acutely aware that every day that we have them is a gift; every day that they have each other is an even bigger gift.  I struggle to accept that one day I will lose my parents, but while I have them, I want to acknowledge their guidance and influence that I finally appreciate now that I’m a grown-up.

I was the wild child and my mom often reminds me and anyone else who will listen, how difficult I was, particularly from ages 13-28.  That’s a long stretch, I know.  My siblings are 15, 13 and 11 years older than me, so I guess we can all deduce that I was unplanned.  I recently learned from my mom that a Valentine’s day gift from my dad lead to my conception.  He gave her a ring; I gave her years of trouble.

My parents leaned toward the ‘tough love’ school; no whining or excuses were allowed and no bailing me out when I got into trouble.  They believed that I could always do a little better if I applied myself.  I wasn’t punished for bringing home B’s or C’s, but they made it clear that A’s were preferred.  They let me explore all of my interests like sports, music, theater and writing without hovering or pushing.  They attended an occasional softball game, concert, play or musical, but only if I wanted them to.  There was no pressure to be anything other than what or who I was.

In a nutshell, my old-school parents raised 4 independent, productive and capable children.  They allowed us the freedom to pursue our interests, but they were clear that if we screwed up, we would suffer the consequences.  There were no phone calls to teachers, coaches, or other parents to fight our battles; we were responsible for our actions.  There were times as a kid, when I felt like they abandoned me, but as an adult these lessons have come in handy as I’ve had to deal with the fallout of my bad decisions.

So, while I’m grateful for the “good genes” that they’ve passed along to me, I’m more grateful for the guidance and patience that they employed in raising their youngest and most challenging child.  My mom taught me that smart, strong and confident is more important than pretty and popular. She is also responsible for my sense of humor, which has been my oxygen over the years.  My dad taught me the value of a dollar, to love animals and he instilled a sense of loyalty by raising me as a Detroit Lions fan.  If by chance, I do manage to make it to 90, I’ll carry those lessons for a very long time.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

October 3, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , , | 15 Comments


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