A few things:
First, I invite you all to read an unsolicited review (I swear) of my chapbook, “Diary of a Writer in Mid-Life Crisis”—a simple but thoughtful, elegant, and edited compilation of these here blogs. (Agents and editors, are you listening?)
I handed one of my chapbooks off to Marc Schuster, a very talented writer in his own right (who also authored a terrific story called “Slow” on this site, so check it out!), at the writers’ conference I mentioned in my last post. And lo and behold, he surprised me with this delightful analysis. You can read it at http://smallpressreviews.blogspot.com/ . Scroll down until you find my title. And please do send me a note if you want me to send you a copy.
Second, it was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary this month. A feat almost as spectacular as the invention of lipo and spandex (thank God), especially in this day and age. Not too many of us get 50 years with our significant others, especially since we’re now marrying in mid-life. (Although, I tell Dan that we’ll be celebrating our 50, even if we have to do it with him stuffed and on castors.)
To commemorate their amazing half century, mom and dad threw themselves a similarly awe-inspiring party at the Centre Bridge Inn, where Dan and I got married, for 100 of their closest friends and family.
Of course, nary a rites of passage in the Sherer clan where I’m not compelled to write and read a relevant story. And so, I’m delighted to share it with you all as always. Whether you’re married, single, or otherwise, I hope you find it both enjoyable and inspiring.
Finally, I wish you all the very happiest of Thanksgivings. May you eat beyond your threshold, enjoy several hours of stomach gurgling, use it as a great excuse to get other people to clean the table and do the dishes, find a great hiding spot for the pastries you know you’ll want to eat in secret on Friday (cause who are we kidding), and pass out on the sofa in front of the television.
Now THERE’S a holiday.
Until next time!
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad
The other week, I stopped by my parents’ house just in time to watch my mother and father bicker about cake. He’d just come home from the mother ship—Costco—with $25 worth of pound cake for my mother’s cousin’s funeral. This is despite her instructions to only spend $20.
After the funeral, they came over to drop off something I-can’t-remember, when I asked how everybody liked the overpriced pastry. (I know, I’m a troublemaker.) But by then, they had moved on to something else. It seems that, during the service, my mother wanted to say something to the woman sitting in front of my father. But when she asked him to tap her on the shoulder, he refused.
“You’re so queer Owen,” she says, shaking her head.
“Why should I tap somebody on the shoulder I don’t know?”
“Because I asked you to.”
“If you asked me to jump off a bridge, should I do it?”
“You’re just queer.”
“You said that already.”
As I sat and listened, wishing I had a pencil and a piece of paper so I could accurately capture the details, I had to smile: So this is what 50 years of marriage looks like.
Every time my new husband and I are out with my parents, they bicker. About why my Dad shouldn’t order potatoes. Why it’s too cold to sit on the patio. Whether they should share an entrée or each order their own. We’re almost flattered that, when they’re with us, they’re comfortable enough to be so openly disgruntled.
And yet when we leave, Dan will always ask, “Do you think that will be us someday?”
And I reply: “I hope so.” As I watch my parents head to their car, holding hands.
Because we know that their bickering is just a shill for something else. That in between the nitpicking, there’s the giggling and playful hitting, and, yes, the implied joy of shared living. Even though it doesn’t always look like what you might expect it to. And yet, you don’t spend 50 years with another person to wind up with nothing, just like you don’t spend a lifetime investing in a 401K to retire in the red.
Over the course of five decades, my parents have enjoyed the payoffs—and countless rites of passages. Two wonderful children, grandchildren, dogs. Several cars and houses. Too many vacations too count. Pretty things. Things that work. Special occasions, like this one. An ever-improving quality of life.
Still, there have also been the challenges to survive—the pain of loss, the pressures of debt, and the traumas of their children.
My father was diagnosed with it some three years ago, after having a routine stress test forced upon him by my mother. That’s when they found the small speck of dust on his lungs.
It was a defining moment for our family. My father’s response was to acknowledge a “good run” and curl up on the bed for a nap. My mother, however, lay awake with it for months—in silent fear until she knew for sure that, like an exposed cad, the cancer had been run out of town.
I remember the moment they rolled my father into recovery after surgery. He was clean and safe. The cancer put out like an unwelcome guest. Laying there quiet on a gurney, wearing tubes linked to computers chirping, his eyes were open and his face flushed like a tri-athlete fresh from competition.
And my brother said, “Hey dad. We love you.”
And I said, “We’re right here dad.”
And my mother leaned in real close, tears in her eyes, and whispered, “I saved your life, Owen. And now, I want a diamond tennis bracelet.”
He made pretend he didn’t hear it. But I know he did. Because after my mother and brother left me there to take first watch, the sides of his lips curled up ever so slightly.
It’s that kind of code between two people that makes me want to cry. The fact that they’re my parents makes it all the more powerful. Because as their daughter, their love and 50 years together has been the greatest gift they’ve ever given me. Hands down.
So generous, in that I’ve never had to choose sides, worry about the burden of their loneliness or independence, or wonder what real love and commitment looks like. I see it and touch it every day. Laced like fine thread through the minutiae of real life.
As I stand here today, Mom and Dad, I am both grateful and proud. And so blessed with having parents who know what marriage and family is all about. Who know how to make a promise and keep it. Who know that for better or worse always means for the better, if you’re up to the half-century task.
Congratulations, you guys. And thank you. Your commitment is one of my most treasured possessions. And I will carry it in my heart forever.