Dear Mama and Daddy,
Happy 50th Anniversary and happy 70th birthdays! I am so excited about these milestones! When I was reflecting over what to write, a fact became clear to me: that with the exception of 6 days, I have been present almost your entire marriage! And what a “great ride” it has been! As I was designing your scrapbook as a vessel to hold the “works of heart” written by your children and designed by your grandchildren, I was overwhelmed with how to capture two great lives so closely joined at the heart and soul that it is difficult to imagine one of you without the other.
You know, you hear on a daily basis, “I am this way because my parents raised me this way.” Well, the reality is, that you did not have a good model to draw from. You both had tough childhoods, defined by being poor and being lonely. But if anyone ever doubts that God exists, they simply have to look at how your two paths crossed and you decided to make the rest of the trip together. In one another, you found that perfect, unconditional, and resilient love that continues to grow and envelops all of us that surround you. I look at the two of you and often wonder how you found it within yourselves to reach deep inside and find the ability to create a different future to yourselves that you, in turn, passed on to your children.
John Rosemond says in his book, “Seven Points to Raise Happy, Healthy Children,” that the first and most important point is, “Take care of your marriage.” And indeed, you have done this in the most tender, loving way. From the admonishment: “Don’t come downstairs during our Saturday night dinner,” to, “Don’t ever sit between us,” you gave us a valuable lesson that we were not the center of this family, but that your marriage and relationship was the core around which everything else would revolve and evolve. When I hear couples tell me that they can’t take time for each other because of money or lack of time, I remember how you saved Saturday night as the special date night in which you grilled steaks and watched “Man from U.N.C.L.E” and “Saturday Night at the Movies”, and carved out time ALONE. You must have desperately needed a break from us crazy children, but more importantly, you took time out to connect with each other. I also remember that we were threatened not to come downstairs unless one of us was dead or we would be dead after you got through! Somehow, you found a way to find privacy in our crazy house.
The locked door to your bedroom represents just how sacred you saw your relationship (and had to be the “key” to how there got to be so many of us!) I laughingly tell people that you can tell that you really celebrated your anniversary in February, because 9 months later (November), five us appeared on the scene! (James and Diane had to be flukes!)
In my time management class, I do an exercise in which I get people to line up the roles that are the most important to them. When I get to the part about who should come first: children or spouses, I always tell the story of how you two have always rightfully put each other first. Your fame as the champions of happy marriages is growing!
I feel so privileged to have been your first child. I will never forget one day we were talking about your elopement and I remarked that you must have been a little upset at getting pregnant six days after you were married. You told me that you were both thrilled and that I was so wanted. I cherish the feeling I get every time I remember that conversation. I feel so loved.
I have been the luckiest child because I have been around since the beginning (and no cracks from my siblings about my age!) I remember the struggles to make ends meet. I have vivid memories of your adding up the grocery list to make sure that it fell within the very tight budget. I remember Daddy working two jobs to keep food on the table. I remember I also remember very lucky because we had so much love in our family. I always felt sorry for people who were not in our family.
I feel like those struggles taught me so much! I learned that even if money is tight, you still share with those that are less fortunate. You stuck by each other through the building of the house (that almost ended the marriage!), the fire that led to the famous renovation (aka, hell on earth to put a fireplace in the den), the famous hunting trip, the umbrella pokes, trips to Gulf Shores (in the blue bomb with trailer, dog, and dog vomit/mess in tow!), loss of the job at the Land Company, and tough beginnings at Jones Williams Construction. Why you even have to put up with those stinky brothers of mine on a daily basis! The verdict is in: sainthood for the BOTH of you.
Through it all, you repeated, “God has never forgotten us, we know he will help us.” You continued to emphasize just how important God is to your relationship.These trials were lessons passed on to me. When I was afraid to move to Atlanta, you said, “Good, we’ll have a place to visit!” I know that you were giving me the very push I needed to start my life as a Swingette in Atlanta.
When we lost John’s parents, you stepped in to help John, Fran, and me cope with the biggest tragedy of our lives. In fact, you have been there not only for us for Jan, and Anne. They, along with Mary Anne, have nothing but the highest praise for the positive influence you have had upon them and the love and unconditional love given to them in times of trouble.
When I couldn’t get pregnant (and the rest of the family could just by THINKING about it!) you talked me on a regular basis to help my flagging spirit. When I lost my job, I remember Mom going to the cabinet and getting me a calendar to start my new company. You knew that food (usually the comfort I liked the best) just wasn’t going to work.
I feel that you have instilled in me the confidence to achieve my very best in life. I marvel at this when I think that you really did not have anyone to teach you this—again this is the real power of your love! Your marriage has provided a wonderful model that John and I admire and learn from on a daily basis!
We have cherished the times we have gotten to travel with you. We have seen some spectacular sites together, shared plenty of vino and wonderful food, and memories that are irreplaceable.
I always enjoy our daily phone calls—it doesn’t feel right when a day goes by and we haven’t talked.
You have achieved a wonderful balance of working, playing and loving together—this is the legacy you have given to me.
I love you so much!