Mama and Daddy wed in 1938 on the last day in June. That’s eighty-three years ago. It shouldn’t have worked but they hung on to God and each other for more than fifty years, honoring their vows by guts and grace,”until death do us part.” Daddy was the first to take off for heaven, Mama stayed another fifteen years.
Looking back, as their eldest, I remember the struggles, disconnects, and disappointments, and the times Daddy lost his job and his way. And I recall when Mama took on more than her share and, sometimes, spoke or wrote too “holy” for her good or ours. But mostly I’m aware of two sinner-saints who loved God, each other and their family through it all. And we’re not all that lovable.
Healthy relationships don’t just happen. Marriage taxes our bent towards selfishness, me first and me only. Add the baggage we tote, sometimes blessed and complicated by parenthood, showcase how grossly unprepared we are.
If I look at accomplishments, as the world values success, Daddy was a failure and Mama a successful nurse, writer and speaker. But there’s always more to the story. And that’s what I cherish. All those ordinary mealtimes, when Daddy prayed, then told jokes. He blessed more than our food. Looking back, I’m awed by his courage to carry on when life was less than hoped or prayed for or when he disappointed himself and others.
Each generation bears a mixed heritage, along with high hopes to take it up a notch or two. Looking back, therapy could’ve helped Daddy deal with so many debilitating criticisms, losses and flawed decisions. After he died, at age 79, I went through his suit jacket. On the inside pocket were some worn 3×5 cards containing notes on sharing Jesus with others, favorite Bible verses and cues for some of his favorite jokes.
Two nights ago, one of my favorite “kids,” slept over with my granddaughter, Lily. While Lily slept-in, we had a conversation about marriage. Her autism brings fascinating perspectives. When I asked what makes a good marriage, this was her response.
“Well, you need love, trust, forgiveness and S-E-X. Can I say that?”
“Yes, you can and may.”
“And then I think, sometimes you just need to switch on your humanity.”
That’s worth remembering.
So simple, but not easy.
Two human beings come together to do the best they can, often under circumstances neither could’ve imagined. When I look in the mirror I see both of my parents, their flaws and my own. Their need for guts and Grace, and mine. A heritage heavy on forgiveness and faith’s a rich one. I’m thankful for both.
One day we’ll gather again around heaven’s table for suppertime. I picture Daddy making notes on his favorite jokes, Mama rolling her eyes, while Jesus anticipates another good laugh.
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