My family gathered for a milestone celebration earlier this month.
My parents celebrated 70 years of marriage on August 8, 2018. They were 21 and 23 when they go married in 1948, both of them recent graduates of the University of Illinois. Dad had already been to war and back. He had left the university in 1944 and enlisted in the Army in February 1944. He served as a Artillery Observer with the 291st Field Artillery
Observation Battalion and participated in the WWII Campaigns of
Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. Dad received his Honorable
Discharge from the Army in 1946 and returned to the university, also spending a semester at Cornell. When he came back to U of I, he met Mom, and they married soon after.
They had James two years later, and then Dad went to war again—this time in Korea.
|Dad writing to Mom while in Korea. Love the picture of Mom and James there on his desk.|
Dad came home, they bought a farm in southern Illinois, they both went to graduate school (Dad got two master's degrees and a PhD, Mom got a master's degree), and then had four more kids—there are 16 years between James and me. We moved to upstate New York when I was 18 months old.
|This picture was taken with our grandparents right before we moved from Carbondale, Illinois to Geneva, New York in 1967.|
|This picture cracks me up. I'm probably three in this picture, maybe four, and James is 19 or 20.|
My parents spent their first 40 years in Illinois and their next 40 years in New York, where we lived first in this wonderful house on Castle Street and then we built this amazing house on Seneca Lake.
|665 Castle Street, Geneva, NY|
|4233 Glass Factory Bay Road|
We all miss our house
on Seneca. Wow, how we miss it! But our parents moved down to Tennessee in 2009 —that house on the lake was getting challenging. And, more than anything else, all the grandkids were here in Tennessee.
And now there are even more grandkids and a bunch of great-grandchildren, too.
|With all of us except our oldest brother, James, who is always missing.|
|With #2 son, John and Sharon|
|With #3 son Peter and Nancy|
|With #4 son, Stephen, and Jen|
|With me, #5 and only daughter, and Randy|
|With #2 granddaughter, Ellen, and Justus|
|With #1 grandson, Owen, and Bri|
|With #2 grandson, Isaac, and Courtney|
|With all the grandkids and most of their spouses: brothers Maxwell (3) and Kollman (6) on the front, all the way to siblings Owen, Ellen, Isaac, and Seith; to my kids Laurel, Duncan, and Jesse; and April (her sister Esther, the oldest grandchild, is the only one missing)|
|Rory, Xavier, Judah, Soren, Justus, Lucy, and Miles: all the great-grands except Corena and Abigail.|
|All the grandkids, most of their spouses, and most of the greats.|
That was a 10-minute summary of 70 years of living. I left out almost everything. I left out heartbreak. Lost dreams. Uncertainty. I left out counting pennies, washing out dirty diapers, sickness. I left out sleepless nights, loneliness, doubts. I left out terse words, cold shoulders, and slamming front doors. I left out secrets, desires, and unmet expectations. I left out loss, pure anger, and heaps of disappointment. I left out the struggle.
I left out the magic of discovering the world anew with each child, the magic of a moonlight sail, the magic of snow. I left out thousands of days spent in the orchards, thousands of nights spent beside each other on the same double bed, thousands of meals started with a simple prayer of gratitude. I left out little sticky hands and the smell of peaches ripening on the counter. I left out the sounds of laughter and skis slicing through fresh snow and the waves lapping the shore. I left out my father's terrible jokes and his stories around the dinner table. I left out my mother's apple pies and her sewing machine and how she made tiny dresses for my Barbie dolls. I left out the two of them singing and reading the Bible and going to church every single Sunday. I left out redemption stories.
We all have our own stories to tell and memories to share of our family history, sure. But what makes up this marriage are the stories held just between the two of them, the ones we can never know and can only begin to understand as we travel in our own marriages.
I believe what my parents would say is that it all comes down to this: 33 lives directly connected to these two, and so many more to come. Our inheritance is richer than any bank account; their legacy of love surrounds us all, pushes us to greater things, to love and cherish and protect and encourage.
To rise above, to spread our wings, to always keep this in our hearts:
Love never fails.
(My father reading his poem "Always 21" to my mother.)