Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Together Through Life

Making her laugh.

My parents' relationship has always been a mystery to me. They met in October of 1971 and married in March of 1972. You could say, as Johnny Cash would, that they got married in fever. Except, it seems there was no fever.

My mom had two dates the week she met my dad. She went back to work on Monday and told her friends, "Well, it's certainly not that Ray guy." That Ray guy would be my dad.

They were both divorced when they met. Both had two kids. Other than that, I'm not sure what they had in common.

The way my mom tells it, she wasn't even attracted to him. He was blonde and blue eyed, she preferred men with dark hair and dark eyes. She was unimpressed. He worked in a factory, like she did, and he told her he ate dinner at his sister's house every night. She was not impressed by that either.

For their second date he asked her if she wanted to go see Elvis. Sure, by that time it was fat, drug addled Elvis, a few years away from death Elvis, but still, it was Elvis, and she wanted to see him. So they climbed into whatever old wreck he drove at the time and headed for Kentucky to see The King.

"He didn't have tickets, we had a flat tire, and he locked his keys in his car. It was a nightmare," she says.

She smoked back then and when she went to flick her cigarette out of the car window a piece of ash blew back in and landed on my dad's shirt. She was too embarrassed to tell him and thought he might not notice. Which he might not have, except it burned a hole in his shirt and started to burn him. All he said was a dry, "Thanks a lot."

What happened on that second date was they got to know each other, and when she got to know him she thought he was... funny. And if you can make my mom laugh, then you've got her. A more good-natured and good-humored woman you will not find, and she will laugh until tears roll down her face and she goes completely slack.

That second date led to a 38-year long marriage.

My mom claims this is untrue and if I have I don't remember, but I swear I've never seen a wedding photo of them. I am still not entirely convinced they're even married because of this, nor do I believe they had any type of courtship. (No evidence, no dice.) Everything I know about them I've had to extract. They are private people, and while they tell stories about growing up or what have you, they don't tell many stories about their beginning. It's very peculiar to me. I don't know that I've ever once even seen them kiss on the mouth. Maybe when I was younger.

A few weeks before their wedding they went back and forth on calling it off. What about the kids? Would they get along? Did he really want to move back to Kentucky? Where would they live if they stayed in Marion? Typical cold feet kind of stuff. But when he showed up at her house in "his little blue suit and tie, he just looked so handsome," my mom says, and off they went to the church.

"Plus," my mom says, "My friends at the factory had taken up a collection for us, it'd have been kind of humiliating not to go through with it." (Good a reason as any I guess.)

It was just them, their two friends as witnesses and the preacher.

They were supposed to get married on a Saturday, April 1, but that was April Fools Day. So they sealed the deal on Friday, March 31 instead. It was a full moon.

Last night I asked my mom why she ended up with my dad rather than the man she thought she liked more on those first few dates. The other man was a green beret, had a college education, made more money... all the things on paper that you would think a single mom at 30-years-old would want.

But in the end she thought my dad was kinder, funnier, a better partner for life... and his background was more aligned with hers. "He was hard-working, like my dad" she says, then laughs, "Though there were plenty of times later I thought, 'Man I could be living on easy street right now!'"

When I was about 5 my dad starting working third shift so he could go to technical school to be a mechanic, so we could have a better life. I carried his giant books to his truck every morning. He was so tired he says he often didn't know what day it was or if he was supposed to go to school or to work, so he went where my mom told him he needed to go. They talk about it now as some of their leanest years, how there wasn't much money. But it always seemed like there was plenty to me, and they were able to send me to college on that mechanic and factory worker's salary.

My mom and I laugh now about some of those 38-years, tolerating my grumpy-ass dad. And sometimes I truly didn't know why she put up with him huffing and puffing around the house, grouchy and groaning for what seemed like years. But then, he was also a good husband and dad, and he always made sure she was happy above all else. My mom didn't ask for much, just to be taken to dinner on Friday nights and a quiet room to read her books in. And so off they went, every Friday night for dinner. The rest, eh... it would work itself out.

And when she'd nag him to death (a skill moms excel at), he'd never snap or yell, he'd just look at me and roll his eyes and we'd snicker under our breath, bonded in our laughter.

At the end of the day, they liked and appreciated each other. My mom supported his interests and friends, and he always supported hers. Even in what seemed like the worst times, they had each others back. My dad wouldn't say a mean spirited word about her if you tortured him. And for all his faux grousing, when she said she wanted a porch and a new porch swing, he bought the porch and built the swing.

Idyllic? Hell no. But together through life.

So, happy 38th anniversary, mom and dad. I am so glad you found each other.


Jonett W. said...

Great post Gina! Happy Anniversary to them!

Yvette said...

This was so enjoyable to read. They are a great example of how people don't always need what others would expect them to find interesting or attractive. Making a relationship work goes far deeper than common interests at any given point in time. Hope they enjoyed a wonderful anniversary day!