Today is my parents' 40th anniversary. Four decades. In a time when some marriages don't make four months, this is pretty incredible.
Fact is, when that handsome bartender met that beautiful dark haired girl at Al's Stereo Bar in Richmond Hill, New York, they could have never envisioned themselves four decades later, living in Birmingham, Alabama.
But they did it.
We call ourselves the Jazz Hands Family (here we are at Thanksgiving two years ago demonstrating our moves.) I love seeing my parents enjoy themselves. Because they have worked so hard to get here.
As an adult and as a parent, there are times I want to be transported back to when my parents were in the middle of raising us. How did they do it?
Mom, driving three kids to school in the Custom Cruiser station wagon, getting calls from school when we were sick, and had forgotten backpacks, giving her all to look after each one of us. Grocery shopping at Publix, making each dollar count toward the meals that we thought magically appeared on the table.
Meanwhile, Dad was doing his part too, with the long days and the long trips as he rose through the ranks as a banker. They built our family together, beginning with their first house on a street aptly called Harmony Drive.
Next there was our home on Southridge Drive, where we spent 16 years, and later, the house on Woodcreek. Clearwater was where they spent their first 25 years, two kids who'd fled New York. Birmingham is where they've spent the past 15. A long way from Al's.
You can't see these things about your parents until you are older. How hard it must have been for them to put three kids through Catholic School, college, dance schools, grad school (Megan being the lone graduate of that one). Or to be the recipients of countless late night calls. (I can only speak to the ones I've made, which included crashing cars, nearly losing an eye and once, "The chaperone let us take a boat to Africa!" I was 16. They were not pleased.)
The injuries. The prescriptions. The doctor visits. In 40 years, there are many. In the past years they're have been more, for both of them and for the people that they love. Last year they held my grandmother, Nani's, hands as she passed after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. She lived with them for more than two decades of their marriage.
That, my friends, is love.
Trying to figure out the right things to say, I pull out a half-finished scrapbook I attempted to make for their 25th. I'd asked our family and friends to send letters about them. It's a little hard to read because many of them are no longer with us.
With each note, people reflected on Mom and Dad's trademarks: the homes they created, the letters they sent letting people know that they were thinking of them. As neighbors, how they were always there with a spare key. As nieces and nephews, how they boosted their aunts and uncles. As children, how they made their parents proud.
This letter, from Nani:
"Over the years, Rosemary has been a loving and caring daughter, and Hugh is just the kindest person on Earth."
There aren't words to begin to say how generous they are. Mom, who befriends people in need everywhere she goes, from Ryan's theater friends to the cashier at Publix. She takes the time to listen. Dad's the one who is taking the photos at his grandson's school play, printing copies out for classmates. Both of them, calling me to see how I'm feeling when I'm on the road, even though I'm 35. Did I get enough rest? Do I need anything from Costco?
We talk every day, usually several times. But in all of this talking, I will never have the right words to say to them all that they have taught us.
In the unfinished scrapbook is a letter I wrote on November 20, 1995.
"Mom and Dad are such originals. They are marked by their sincere nature and generosity. They always look to the interests of others, in particular their children, before their own.
On this, their 25th anniversary, I thank Mom and Dad for all of the love that they have given me and our family. I am the luckiest person in the world to have you as parents. You are the best examples of people, of a couple, and of parents."
Thanks, Al and your Stereo Bar. Thanks Rosemary and Hugh. I'm glad that the scrapbook is unfinished -- you have 40 more years to fill.