Nana “I have a song for every situation” Gathen and Pops “I have trouble remembering the titles of songs” Gathen (the two people fully responsible for bringing me into this world in case you were looking for someone to blame) celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary this weekend. Since I’m the default “writer” of the family I was nominated by my brothers and sister to write the speech/toast to honor our parents at their anniversary party on Saturday. Also, since I was up until 3am Friday morning trying to finish the speech and a bottle of Bully Hill red table wine (I started both around midnight) and since today is actually the date of their anniversary, I’m using the speech as today’s post. I know my posts are usually about my boys and being a father and are certainly far more irreverent, flippant and hopefully humorous than the speech, none of it would be possible without them. So, today belongs to Mom and Dad. Happy 40th Anniversary.
“Tomorrow my mother and father will have been married for 40 years. 40 years ago tomorrow it was a rainy Saturday and in a Cathedral in Albany they vowed to spend the rest of their lives together, to love and cherish, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health. 40 years ago tomorrow a union began that produced 5 children and to date 2 grand children (that we know about) and a legacy of a life that has been filled with happiness and sadness, laughter and loss, pride, accomplishment and disappointment, but most of all it is a life that was filled with family.
40 years ago tomorrow my mother and my father each married their best friend and how blessed and lucky they each are to have done so. How blessed and lucky we all are that through a chain link fence at Lincoln Park Pool my father held my mother’s hand and thus began the love affair that continues today. How blessed and lucky each of us should be to not only find a person who understands us, who appreciates who we are, who tolerates us when we are at our worst and who can enable us to be our best but to have that person be the one with whom we are meant to spend our lives with.
There are so many memories I could relate, so many yesterdays, I could tell you all stories that illustrate the wonderful parents they are to us, the sacrifices they made and continue to make, the things they gave up and the love they give out.
Yesterdays of Dad coming home from one job in the dead of winter, cold, face wind burn, exhausted only to eat a quick dinner before leaving to go to another job.
Yesterdays of Mom putting her own dream of college on hold to assure each one of us had the opportunity to go and then years later to recapture and realize that dream for herself, to achieve her college diploma.
Yesterdays of countless weekends spent at the little league fields as a coach or a spectator, summer nights and Sunday mornings spent at Pop Warner, hundreds of track meets, cross country meets, and soccer games.
Yesterdays of driving around the back development delivering newspapers from the lowered gate of our station wagon or suburban and despite counting and recounting the papers always coming up one or two short.
Yesterdays of having presents, the same number of presents for each of us, to open every Christmas morning and a tree under which the presents were placed even if that meant the tree was shaped like a squished beach umbrella because we got it for free on Christmas Eve and even if that meant that even socks and underwear were individually wrapped.
Yesterdays of Cape Cod Vacations every year no matter what, driving out in the predawn darkness to beat the traffic, Mom getting her fingers slammed in a window, going to the trampolines on Route 28, Christmas Tree Shops, endless hours of sand castles…
Yesterdays at a house with a huge backyard that never actually grew grass so much as it grew prickers and a pool with a deck without stairs, but it was our house and our backyard and our pool and they were our prickers that stuck to our shoelaces and the cuffs of our pants.
Yesterdays of playing catch in the street in front of our house with Dad, throwing it too high or too far to one side and having to chase the ball down the street, Mom yelling from the house for Dad to stop being so hard on us. For the record Dad, in retrospect I don’t think you ever were.
As I write this I am being flooded with yesterdays and I could stand here until tomorrow recounting stories and memories but each would be centered around the same theme; our parents love us and each other and even though we may not have always appreciated it they sacrificed their own wants, needs, dreams and sometimes even their own happiness to make sure we had what we wanted, what we needed, what we dreamt of and what would make us happy.
But here I am reminiscing about yesterdays when we should be talking about tomorrows. Not just the tomorrow that will mark their 40th wedding anniversary but the tomorrows they will get to spend with each other and just each other, the tomorrows they have truly earned, the tomorrows that will mark the rest of their lives together.
There is one final yesterday though that I would like to share with everyone. It’s one of the earliest memories that I have of my parents, one the earliest memories I have in general for that matter.
I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old. We were still living down on Hudson Avenue in Albany, it was summer time and we’d just had a barbeque in our backyard. I remember there was a pit where my father had dumped the ashes, ashes still glowing orange within the gray dust. My parents walked out front with their friends and I stayed in the backyard alone. I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but I had the idea that I should jump across the ashes. Barefoot I ran towards the pit and jumped as far as I could and landed in the middle of the smoldering fire. The pain was blinding. All I remember doing is screaming. I don’t know how much time passed, but the next memory I have is of my father and mother running up the driveway towards me, my father reaching me first, lifting me from the coals and placing me in the wading pool.
And to me it seems fitting that the first memory I have of my parents is of them pulling me from a fire, of them saving me, and now over 30 years later I’m still trying to jump further than I’m capable of and they are still pulling me from fires, still saving not just me but all of their children, Kari, Mark, Brian, Michal, in different ways. In the unique ways that we each need to be helped, the fires that we each need to be lifted from.
Even now that I am 36 years old and have 2 beautiful sons and a beautiful wife, Jack not being too much older than I was when my father pulled me from the coals, I still stand there sometimes confused, in pain, lost and looking to see if my mother and father are running towards me to help me. I know I am speaking for my siblings when I say that they are they first ones we turn to when we need help, guidance, advice or just someone to talk to. And I know that when I need them the most, I will feel them lifting me up, I will feel them helping me, saving me. Because that’s the type of parents they are. That’s the type of people they are. And we, each of us here tonight, are all better people because of it.
So, Mom and Dad, to all your yesterdays, to all your tomorrows and to your 40 years together. I love you.”