Friday, May 28, 2010

A Memorial Day Anniversary

My parents married on Memorial Day in 1953, which occurred then always on May 30. I have their marriage license in my files. As the oldest of three sons, I’m the keeper of the records, the family photographs and all things that prove they were on this planet — apart from the collective memory of those of us who know them, of course.

Or knew them, in my dad’s case. He died in February of last year. I figure most of you reading this have lost a parent, sibling or someone close to you. I miss him every day — but especially on days like this — what would have been their 57th anniversary.

Mom is still relatively hale and hearty, watching Court TV and, right now, the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, in a retirement center in Longview, Texas. That is where we moved in 1968 from New Hampshire much against her will — which she continues to complain about with hardly any prompting. She turned 80 this year, has several internal body parts missing and enough artificial devices inserted to make air travel problematic. It would be tough for her to get through security without setting off all sorts of alarms. Her flying days are over anyway, so I’ll be going to see her this weekend.

Still, I would not bet against her voting in the 2028 presidential election. She likely would vote for the Democratic candidate, unless he or she is from Texas — then all bets are off. As I said, she bears a grudge about being moved to Texas. She likely would root for the North Korean National Football Squad if it were playing the Dallas Cowboys.

Mom is one tough old bird.

My parents met on a blind date in Boston, where my mom was a nursing student at Massachusetts General Hospital. My dad was in the Navy. His destroyer, the U.S.S. Norris, was docked at the Boston Naval Shipyard for repairs. He was a radar man during the Korean War. He enlisted after graduating from Willow Springs High School in Missouri, though he spent his early years growing up in Casper, Wyoming.

His dad, my grandfather, was a rambler — a man who outlived a pair of wives and finally was outlasted by his third bride as he neared his ninth decade. I attended his third wedding in December 1968 in the First Baptist Church of Longview, Texas. Not many grandchildren attend their grandfather’s wedding, at least in the 1960s. She still lives on her own in his house at age 98.

My grandfather worked as a rancher, police chief, insurance salesman and eventually found his niche as a Boy Scout executive. His grandfather — my great-great-grandfather — was married five times to four wives. He double-dipped once, though I can’t remember with which spouse. Family lore has it all four spouses are buried alongside him, two on each side, somewhere in Kentucky. Grandpa Buck had one reburied next to him years after she had passed. Buck definitely had his peccadilloes.

But I digress.

I have seen a few photographs from the years when my parents met and fell in love. My mom is short with full lips and big hair. My dad is skinny with a shy smile and glasses, no giant either. Over the years I have looked at photographs, trying to figure out which parent I take after. I lean toward my dad, because I’m quiet in person like he was. But I’m short and swarthy as is my mom’s French-Canadian side. So there you go.

My dad was proud of his service years. He got to see the world in the Navy, and he was lucky enough to meet my mom as a result of that service, on that blind date in Boston.

On Memorial Day, I’ll be back in Texas for the long weekend. Thanks to the nonstop American Eagle flight from Manhattan to Dallas, I can be there in five hours, tops. I plan to take Mom to lunch on their anniversary. We’ll bust her diet and have fried catfish with all the fixings and catch up on the news.

And remember Dad, of course. He loved catfish as well.
Originally published in the Junction City (Kansas) Daily Union, May 29, 2010

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you got the chance to see Grammy. I think you look more like her.

    Thinking of Grandpa lots as our birthday approaches.