Today is my parent’s 58th wedding anniversary. They’ve stuck with each other since they were high school sweethearts in Baltimore MD of the 1940s. When they married at age 20 (their birthdays are only a month apart!) they had no idea where life would take them. My father was a “junior” something or other (pre-executive?) at a large oil company. Mom was at Towson State studying to be a librarian. No accounting for bolts of lightening, but Dad got one – he was called to the ministry. He’s often said the only way you know it’s a true call is to run away as much as you can – and if it’s real, anyway you go brings you right back to it. (I ken this!!)
Well, his call changed their lives. He had to go to college before he could go to seminary. They moved to the small Pennsylvania town where Gettysburg College and the Lutheran seminary are both located. Dad finished his BA in 3 years even with a rigorous academic load. … Mom supported them by working – surprise – in the town library. Unfortunately, she never got a chance to go back to school and finish her degree. She became “the pastor’s wife”. Dad went on to the Seminary, which definitely wasn’t a piece of cake. Luckily he’s a brilliant scholar – the academics weren’t much of a problem.
As the seminarians progress, though, it becomes clear that this isn’t a “job”, it’s a life. A life of service. A becoming, not a doing. A Pastor is what you are, not what you do. (Like a true doctor, but that’s several other blog entries…). Mom and Dad saw that this was their life – especially during the year of internship living out in southern Maryland with cows in their backyard! They must have been OK with it, ’cause that’s what they did. Had their first baby 10 years after they got married (me) and my bro a couple years later. (I really didn’t mean to make Mom drop him on his head!!
One part of the Ministry is moving. Dad was somewhat of a trouble shooter – his strength was going into congregations that had had some extremely divisive events (like the pastor who wife-swapped with another couple in the church) That meant we moved. Not a lot compared to military families, but the longest I lived anywhere was 7 years. OK, so I only lived 5 different places. Sometimes it was a relief to move!!
The last church Dad had was in south Florida. They had looked there because they thought it would be good for my Mom’s arthritis and headaches. Kinda worked. Arthritis better; HAs? They lived a mile from the ocean, and most of the time the breeze made her face hurt. She’s not one for much complaining. I think there were definitely times she should have complained more! They lived there for 27 years – Dad “retired” there, and then they were able to travel more. They started right after I finished college and Mom dragged him around the globe for years. He even got over his fear of flying (mostly, anyhow)
The last move they’ve made is to my house. My Mother’s health has been failing steadily over the last 15 years, and it became quite clear to everyone in the family (except my father) that she had a significant dementia – and that he was having a harder and harder time taking care of her. A couple of falls and a stroke (hers not his) finally got through to him, and he agreed to move up here. Of course, that meant quite a bit of remodeling to give them living quarters – and ones that were suitable for a totally handicapped wheel-chair bound person. It was clear to me that Mom was headed that way!
The task of designing their space, and most importantly, the bathroom, fell to me. I have to admit, I did a great job. I was also blessed to have the most wonderful contractor in the world. We knew Joe was the one when, on his first visit to the house, my very shy, man avoident dog Star walked right up to him and put her head into his lap. He was hired! One of the key features I used to make their space more efficient and accessible was pocket doors. On their sitting room, I used lovely cherry french pocket doors. One place, we had to build a false wall for the door because it was a supporting wall. The bathroom is compact but beautiful. I got the perfect roll-in shower unit (from a lovely Mom and Pop company), ADA-approved light fixtures, grab bars, roll-under and accessible sink. I even found a mirror that tilted down for someone in a wheelchair!
They moved in last spring. The past year 15 months have been very stressful. It’s not easy having your whole life and family routine completely turned upside-down. Dad still hasn’t accepted how sick Mom is, and he refuses to leave her long enough to actually get a life – which was part of the point of moving up here. We do have wonderful Home Helpers who come in to clean, cook, bathe, and help with changing her undergarments (incontinence sucks). I’ve managed to simmer down some of the frustration-based yelling and fussing (all on Dad’s part) Mom is pretty happy and even tempered – gotten sassy too! Still, Dad fusses about the way we’re raising Wonderboy and how much stuff Hubby and kid leave laying around. Like I can do anything about that!
So today is their 58th wedding anniversary. Mom didn’t remember how long they’d been married; looked surprised when I said 58 years. Barbara our home helper angel, made a remark about sticking with Dad for all that time. Mom said “maybe it’s time to get rid of him!” Was a funny! They love each other very much. Mom accepts, as she’s always done, the ups and downs, the indignity of having to wear diapers, and other hardships. Dad is scared. That she’ll fall, that she’ll die, that she’ll …what? Fear is a horrible way to live. Dad is mostly perfectly healthy (how many 78 yos do you know who only take ONE prescription medication???) and it’s gonna be really hard on him when she dies. Now, if he’d only get a life…