Monday, August 26, 2013

Honor Thy Mother and Thy Father

Just a shout out to my parents on their 52nd wedding anniversary today.  The following is the speech I gave at their 50th anniversary: 

This day was not supposed to come.   My upbringing didn’t prepare me for this day.  We were never supposed to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, because Dad wasn’t supposed to live long enough to see this day.  Now, that’s not me being mean or speaking out of turn.  The truth is that for all of Dad’s life, the odds were stacked against him – even from the very beginning.  He did not come into this world easily.  His mother was 15 years old when she gave birth to the first of her five children - a premature, underweight baby in a nowhere place called Deal, PA.  Dad was born a “Blue Baby”, a newborn whose blood is not oxygenated enough.  I don’t think we know how much Dad actually weighed at birth, or even how long he was . . . but his first bed was a sewing machine drawer.  Against all those odds, scrappy little Dad survived and grew.  But then, so did his obstacles.
He’s had more than a few scrapes in his life.  He once cut the end off of a finger.  He once didn’t duck fast enough while running through a low doorway and tore the top of his head open.  He once had surgical eye implants.  He once had two back-to-back surgeries – one quintuple bypass, the other on his intestines that had spent years turning gangrene.  And in case you didn’t know this, Dad’s been a bit of a smoker for more than the better part of his life.  See, he wasn’t supposed to live long enough to meet his first grandchild, let alone see the birth of his first great-grandchild 27 years later.  The point is, Dad has defied the odds his entire life and is here today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his wedding date.  We threw them a party for their 25th Anniversary, because THIS day was not supposed to come.  We threw a party 10 years ago for their 40th Anniversary because this day was not supposed to come.   

On June 23rd of this year, Dad turned 74 years old.  Even though that’s still not THAT old, and despite everything, he’s outlived his father, who died at the age of 57, and has more than doubled the life span of his mother, who died at the age of 34.  He’s outlived both sets of grandparents and all 8 great-grandparents. 

But as impressive as this is, I do not totally credit Dad for this.  Because for more than 50 years, Dad has had Mom in his life, trying to make sure that despite his best efforts, he was as relatively healthy as he could be.   She’s been the brakes to his speeding car, the kill to his buzz, the pooper to his party.  She was the one who always knew when enough was enough.  

It’s never easy and rarely fun to always be the “responsible one”.  Every daredevil needs a soft place to land and who’s any softer than Mom? (Rim shot)  To him, she’s been the girl he wanted, the wife he needed, and the mother he no longer had.  I wonder who he would have been without her.  She’s kept him healthy and happy, and been possibly the best wife, mother, grandmother, and soon to be great-grandmother that God has placed on the planet.  She is the sun in the Troutman solar system, and we are merely planets orbiting around her.  

Now Mom, in sharp contrast to Dad, was not born to a teenager.  Her mother was a baby-making professional, having already given birth 6 times before Mom came along.  The 7th of 9 children, Mom grew up in a two-bedroom house: girls in one room, boys in the other, and her parents probably – if they were smart – slept in the car.  And despite a gall bladder surgery, giving birth a few times, and super-gluing her fingers together, Mom has lived a relatively healthy life, free from the more harsh obstacles that have plagued Dad. 

I’m not naive enough to think my parents’ marriage was perfect.  I doubt you can get married in your late teens and stay married for 50 years without some huge disappointments along the way.  But the real “perfection” is the fact that they worked through whatever those disappointments were, to only come out stronger on the other side. They started a journey, made promises to each other, and stayed together through better and worse, richer and poorer, and in Dad’s case – sickness and health.

I never thought I would be lucky enough to not only have both of my parents in my life for all of my 47 years, but for them to still be married and in love with each other.  I’m grateful to God for His blessing.  I’m grateful to Dad for hanging in there.  And I am grateful to Mom, who I truly believe made it all possible.  

This day was not supposed to come.  But I am humbly thankful that it did.

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