Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad

My parents were married on the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 24, 1967. Coincidentally, that date also falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving 50 years later.

Daddy had been drafted into the Army that year. He went to Ft. Sill in Oklahoma for training and while there received his orders to go to Vietnam. He called my mom from the payphone at the PX on Halloween and told her the news. 

Mom, somewhat in shock: "Well, what do you want to do?"
Daddy: "I think I wanna get married."

And that was that. Less than a month later they got married at Langley Air Force base. It was important that my parents be married because the Army doesn't care about your girlfriend and he wanted to make sure they would be taken care of. 

My mother wore a light blue velvet dress that her friend made for her. Daddy and Doug (age 8) wore matching suits. Uncle Jack was the photographer, so the pictures got more blurry the more he drank.

 Wedding day, November 24, 1967

Wedding day, November 24, 1967

Daddy left for Vietnam in January of 1968 and was gone for a year. The Army actually insisted on counseling Daddy before he got married because Mom was three years older and divorced with a child. She may have just been trying to get his Army pension (or death benefits). Daddy was insulted. 

In these days of instant communication, I'm amazed that they went that whole year with only letters. Mom sent a letter every single day. They did get one week in Hawaii for a honeymoon. Friends warned Mom that war does horrible things to a man and to prepare herself that he may not look so great. She said that he was tan, in the best shape of his life, and really happy to see her. 

 Doesn't my mom have great legs?!

Doesn't my mom have great legs?!

They had two more children (Perry in 1971 and me in 1977) and would have had more if biology would have cooperated. 

My parents have disagreed over the years, like most humans do. However, it was always very clear to me that they adored each other, supported each other, and loved fiercely and unconditionally. 

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Happy 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad. They're not big on fancy celebrations, but I want to give them credit for being each other's #1 fan, incredible parents, and doting grandparents.

 October 2013 - courtesy of Megan Boyles Photography

October 2013 - courtesy of Megan Boyles Photography

Missing

I miss Rich. It’s not all day every day. But it swoops in likes waves on the shore. Sometimes, if I’m not looking, I get knocked down. 

Ian asks so many questions. “If you had two million dollars and someone said they could bring Daddy back for one million dollars, would you do it? I mean ... because you’d still have a million dollars ... and Daddy too!”

It’s hard to answer those questions. It’s like asking what kind of iced tea I would make on the rings of Saturn. It’s so impossible to imagine, I can’t even entertain an answer. 

We’ve already agreed that sick Daddy shouldn’t come back. That would be cruel. But Daddy from 2010? That guy was great. And sure, any of us who love him would want that guy back.

And yet here we are. And here he isn’t. So all we can do is miss him and talk about him. 

I’ve been listening to the Scrubs soundtrack again. Rich never had much interest in watching the show himself but he always greatly enjoyed my descriptions of the episodes. 

There are two songs in particular of note. First is “Good Life” by Francis Dunnery.

Rich couldn’t bear for me to play it around him. Now that he’s gone, I can play it all day if I like. 

It was too hard for him to listen to. The soundtrack for Season One came out in September of 2002. Rich was freshly separated. I was divorced. We were in love. That song reminded him of the previous 12 months when he thought he’d never see me again. During that awful period, he wondered if it would be enough for me to just have a “good life” even if he couldn’t be a part of it. 

I don’t believe in the afterlife, but if there is some form of Rich floating around, I would like to think he is still wanting me to have a good life, even if he can’t be a part of it. 

The other song of note is “Have It All” by Jeremy Kay

That one didn’t bother Rich if I played it. Listening to it 15 years later, it has new meaning for me. Some days I feel like crying, dreaming, singing, or laughing. And I do try to keep the rhythm of a train. And I really do believe that some day we’re gonna have it all. 

Missing someone doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s not indicative of some larger problem. It’s just there. Like the weather, or waves on the shore. 

 Rich and Mollie on our beach, November 2007

Rich and Mollie on our beach, November 2007

Passing notes

Shortly after Rich’s own birthday in 2015 (when his fistula returned), he and I went to Target and bought birthday cards for Ian for his 7th through 18th birthday. I took a picture of the receipt, because I take pictures of everything, and I felt like there was a story on that piece of thermal paper.

 Birthday cards for years to come

Birthday cards for years to come

Rich wrote out notes on all of the cards, closed them in envelopes, and put them in the fire box. About a year later, he handed them over to Travis to be their custodian. 

This year, Ian wanted to have a birthday adventure versus a standard party, so we spent the weekend in Luray going to the caverns, playing around the log cabin we rented, trying out a canoe on the pond, and zip lining in the trees. However, we made sure to be home on Sunday evening in time to have pizza dinner with Travis and Zoe.

As we were unpacking the truck from our trip in anticipation of their arrival, Ian said, “It’s kinda messed up that Daddy wrote all these cards and expects me to read them when he couldn’t even bother to read all the notes that I wrote for him when he was dying.”

That’s my kid, dropping truth bombs in the driveway. 

I agreed that it’s disappointing that Daddy didn’t read the notes that Ian wrote. I reminded Ian that Daddy didn’t feel very good then. “Well, yeah, but he could at least have had you read them to him if he was too sick to read them himself. I put a lot of thought and effort into those notes.” 

I asked him if he knew what it meant to be in denial. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that. But it’s still messed up.” I nodded. 

We went inside, had pizza with Travis and Zoe, opened his present from them, opened his card from Daddy, and played a board game together. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Last night, I reminded Ian that he needed to finish his chores before we headed out to Atlantis Games for Tabletop Tuesday. As he put the vacuum away, I heard some rustling in the front room. He walked out with the stack of notes he had written to Daddy from the fire box and just handed them to me. “Here.”

I asked him what he wanted me to do with them. “I dunno. I just want you to see them. To read them. I want you to know what I wrote. I want someone else to know.” 

And so, even though we were about to walk out the door, I went to the dining room table and read every note again, lovingly turning them over to see the illustrations and noting the dates I had penciled into the corners. I put his 7th and 8th birthday cards from Daddy with them and put them back in the fire box. 

 Passing notes

Passing notes

As we drove to Atlantis, Ian asked me, “What did Daddy do to get cancer anyways?” I explained that in some cases cancer is directly because of something you did (like smoking cigarettes or being exposed to chemicals) but a lot of time it’s just bad luck. 

“Yeah, like, oh I know, here’s this kid who has a great relationship with his dad so let’s just give his dad cancer and ruin that kid’s life.” 

I actually laughed out loud at that. I’m not sure if that’s an appropriate response but it was just so matter of fact about how shit happens and it’s not fair. 

We talked about life being unfair (I mentioned this super great dude named Buddha who talks about suffering) and he pontificated about how “they” should have picked somebody without a kid to get cancer and die. Somebody that nobody would miss.