Friday, September 01, 2006
My parents looking forward to their future.
Today is my parents' twenty-ninth anniversary. Twenty-nine years ago today, my parents "eloped" in a little church in Arizona, exactly one week after moving there. They didn't know anyone, but the church was full and presented them with a gift of dishes (which we had until about 10 years ago). The bride's three year old daughter (that would be me) didn't want to leave her parents' side, so she appeared in every picture. The church also gave them a reception including cake and then babysat for them overnight so they could be alone. I don't know what church it was, but I'd like to thank them because their true Christian example of love and giving set a lifelong example to my parents.
My parents should not have made it. My dad was only 19 and my mom 21, once divorced and with a three year old daughter. When my dad told his parents that they were getting married, his dad pulled him a whole foot away from my mom and hissed "if you marry that woman, with that child, you will never get another dime from me." He had been paying my dad's college tuition. My dad's best friend gave them 10 years at the most. I know my mom's parents weren't happy either. She moved across the country for some young, long-haired greasy musician. And they were broke. My parents defied the odds and taught me a lot during the process (and also learned a lot).
My parents taught me about financial responsibility. As I mentioned, we were broke. For the next four years my dad often worked two jobs and went to school full time. In addition, we only had one car, so he often rode his bike. During this time we lived in Las Vegas for two years (extreme heat) and Minnesota (extreme cold). He never complained because a man provides for his family even if that means working at a fastfood restaurant. In addition, my parents gave to the benevolence offering every month at church. They said it was only about $5 a month, because that's all we had, but they knew there were others who were worse off then ourselves. Their giving paid off because when my mom was pregnant with my brother, we didn't have medical insurance. The church found out and paid for my mom to go to the hospital. Throughout the years, as my parents financial situation has grown, so has their giving. I remember giving Christmas trees to people who couldn't afford it, giving gifts to children, cars to adults and now my parents sponsor 5 third-world children with pride. When my mom's best friend's husband died, my dad donated a sizable sum to be given to her every month through the church (so she wouldn't know it was actually them). My parents also give of their time in a multitude of ways. They truly believe that what God has given to you, you are to give to others. They paid for both my and my sister's undergraduate educations and spent more than that on my brother for drug rehab. They will give until they have nothing left to give. They are just that way.
They taught me that family is the most important thing. My dad adopted me after he and my mom got married. He and his entire family (minus his dad, who I don't have a relationship with) embraced me as his real daughter. He taught me to ride my bike, to drive a car and he walked me down the aisle the first time I got married. And then helped me move all my stuff when I got divorced. He taught me that biology does not play a role in love. However, when things got bad with my brother, it was my mom who stepped up and refused to give up on him. This was her son and she loved him and she knew that God (because nothing else was working) could do something. And if God still loved my brother, then so could my mom. It was a choice and not an easy one, but she fought tooth and nail. And she was right. My brother still isn't perfect, but if she hadn't held on, who knows where he would be today (certainly not in college).
Finally, they taught me how to grow up. My parents were very young and things were not always easy or handled very well. But my parents worked through the hard times and refused to give up on each other. They've shown me what commitment really is. There would have been times when it would have been easier to give up on the marriage, but they both decided that wasn't what they wanted to do. They weren't quitters. And as time went on, I saw my dad turn into a real man. Just five years ago my dad apologized to me for the stuff he had done wrong when he was so young (a lot of verbal abuse). And he was sincere. And I could accept his apology because I could see that he had changed and he had worked to become a man in control of his emotions. In some ways, my sister grew up with a very different dad than I did (and I'm glad for that). But he showed me that people can change when they want to. He also showed me that people are responsible for their own actions and behavior.
I'm very proud of my parents for what they have accomplished as a couple and as individuals. I'm thankful for their lessons about giving, loving and responsibility. Here's to 29 years and hopefully another 30+ more. I love you guys.