Today my father has been alive for 75 years, and he has been in love with my mother for 51 of them. There are few women alive on this earth who are loved like my father loves my mother. You might not know it, because maybe you were not so lucky as I, but it’s a very big deal to grow up around this kind of very big love. I have been thinking about this for days; mostly because the other night I was watching one of those Hollywood “news” programs and there was a “big story,” and quite a fuss made over a star seen for days without his wedding ring, and it made me laugh…I have watched my father love my mother for all the years of my life and I have never, not once ever, seen him wear a wedding ring. For almost 51 years my dad has owned a ‘golden ring’ as a symbol of his love and faithfulness, and yet I never saw him wear it. I’m here to tell you that wearing a ring means nothing, despite what the tabloid entertainment shows might tell you.
That your presence makes a person want to be the best version of themselves, that your presence makes a person’s life richer than it would be without you, what you do, and how you act, and the person you are, is all that matters. “it’s not much, but it’s the best that I can do” so sings George Jones to Tammy Wynette, “only love can make a golden wedding ring” and so it goes…one of my favorite songs of my childhood called Golden Ring, and it’s been in my head since that breaking couples news…My parents, my kind, generous, and loving parents loved, and still love, country music. Not this ‘country pop,’ I mean real country music, “old-fashioned” I guess it is now…Johnny Cash, Gary Stewart, David Allan Coe, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard…oh the list is long, and George Jones was, and still is, a favorite at their house, but this blog is not about country music, and it’s not about Hollywood couples news, it’s about my parents and my dad in particular.
I have never heard my father raise his voice to my mother. I have never heard him say a mean thing to her or a cutting remark, even “just joking” as so many people say, when they say hurtful things, expressing what I think are their true feelings, and then trying to hide them by saying they were “kidding.” Not my dad. I can count on one hand the number of times I heard them “fight” during my childhood, and each time, if my memory serves me, it was my mother being uppity over how she specifically wanted something to be; the placement of a kitchen cabinet during construction of one of our houses comes to mind, and the pattern and direction of a fabric on a project my mother was doing in her sewing room is another one that comes to mind…so maybe it was only two fights…and my father being calm, always calm…he never cursed, yelled, slammed doors, stormed off, zoomed out the yard and drove away, went to a bar, vented to his friends…never told her she was being ridiculous…none of those things you often see in movies, or read in books or hear from other people, that happen after a “fight” or an argument…he just waited for her to mellow, and went right back to his slow and steady and peaceful way through life. It seems, in the memories of my childhood and my thoughts as their adult daughter, that no matter what the circumstance or situation, he simply loved her more…we may differ in almost every way politically in my family, truly them versus me in most of the circumstances, but love always wins.
I had, if not a perfect and idyllic childhood, one that sure was close. You might think I am exaggerating but I’m not. Sometimes I feel a little bit like I have survivor’s guilt, having that kind of childhood with that kind of parents when so many people I know did not. He is the best of men, and that I had the good fortune to be born as their daughter is something I have never taken for granted and for which I am truly grateful. His sense of what is right, and how to do right always, in all ways, is one of the many things I admire about him. To grow up and grow old with parents truly in love, and parents who worked hard and parents who were not lazy, or drunks, or liars, or abusive, or, well, just not good, is as big a deal as any, as far as I can tell. The older I grow and the more people I know, and stories I read, or tales I hear, I become more and more aware of how remarkable it actually is to have parents like I do. I know I’ve been lucky. I’m thankful for them every day.
My father has never told me he was going to do something, and then didn’t do it. My father has never taken advantage of a person, or used a person in a way that only benefited himself. My father has never started a project and then just didn’t feel like finishing it. My father has never gotten my hopes up for something, and then let me down by not following through. That is just not his way. He does what he says, and does everything well, and he has never failed us; not me, not my sister, and not my mom. He was the only “father” my own daughter ever had, and there is not a day of my life that I am not so appreciative, that my child got so blessed too, even when it wasn’t initially my own plan for my own life, she got just as lucky in the “dad” lottery. He does not look his age and he doesn’t act it either…he is vibrant and busy and strong, and just as hard working now, four years into retirement, as he was all of his years working 50 and 60 hours a week as a carpenter. He often said he was “just a carpenter” and never did anything but build and fix and make and do, but for me, my sister, and our mom, he was everything. He has always been as good a human as one could hope to know. I have been disappointed by much and many in my life, but not my dad.