HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY MOM AND DAD


Last week my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

50 years together. That's half a century, people.

They had a party, of course. It was fun and all, but not long after I'd arrived with Karen (that's my wife), and daughter, Palin (named for Michael Palin, thanks, Dad) my little brother tells me that he will be saying a little something. In other words, he will be giving a speech. In fact, he's written it all down and let me and my older brother know that he has a spot where we could come up and say a few words if we wanted to.

Of course I wanted to, but having had this news sprung on me in such a fashion, I was not at all prepared.

I think I did well, but once I was done saying my peace and the party was over, I realized that there was so much more about my childhood and how I was raised that I wanted to say.

I had a good childhood, great actually when you compare it to the kinds of people producers choose to make fools of themselves on reality television shows.

My mom ran a daycare center out of our home, meaning I was surrounded by other children most of the time. I'll admit, that wasn't always the party it sounds like, but the one thing I had over the other kids was a bedroom I could go into and be by myself when I just didn't feel like being a part of the group.

My dad, for the first part of my childhood was an air traffic controller. I don't remember seeing him much back then due to all the hours he worked. It's something that strikes a chord with me now that I'm working two jobs and I'm not home as much as I used to be. But a dad has to do what a dad has to do.

Mom was always the one in charge of discipline. Not only did she have three boys to deal with, a frightening prospect all by itself, she had all her daycare kids to look after as well. But she did alright. After all, she had her switch.

The switch was a yardstick. Mom would pick one up each year and the local County fair. We'd all go with her and my brothers and I would have to stand there and watch as she pulled yardstick after yardstick from the bin. She'd swing them around with two hands like a samurai, testing its weight and balance, until she found the perfect one. Once she had it she would hold it high over her head as if she was about to access all the power that Castle Greyskull had to offer.

Then, in a casual sort of offhand manner, as if in afterthought, she'd toss a knowing little smile our way as we trembled in our tennis shoes, huddled together with only our combined fear to keep us warm.



But seriously, my mom did have a switch, it was a yardstick, I do recall a time where she picked one up at the local fair, but to the best of my recollection, she never actually used one for anything more than lobbing the occasional threat in our direction.

Dad's role was to be the guy we had to wait for when we really messed up.

"Just wait until your father comes home!"

I don't know that Mom actually ever said that to us, but we knew that if we pushed her past a certain point, we'd have to face him. I can't speak for my brothers, but I felt I got pretty good at knowing how far I could push to drive her to the switch, but when to back off so that she wouldn't involve Dad.

If fact, as I type this, I'm suddenly getting an image of my mom, standing over my bed as I cowered atop it, backed into a corner. In my mind she's screaming manically and maybe that's accurate, I mean my brothers and I could be fairly ruthless when it came to making her life hell. I'm sure there were many occasion in which one of us did or said something stupid that drove that poor woman right round the bend.

But anyway, I don't recall what I'd done to warrant being put in such a predicament, but thinking about to the kind of kid I had been known to be, I'm fairly certain I deserved it.

What I do remember though is my mom laying into me with the verbal equivalent of a beating by Mike Tyson. Whatever it was I'd done, whatever it was she was telling me off for, she was punctuating each point by slamming the switch into the top of my bed until finally the thing snapped in half. I don't think I'd ever been as scared . . . I don't think she had been either.

I think back to times like that and I want to call Mom up and tell her that I'm sorry. Apologize for all the torment I put her through. I never have though. I'm not sure why.

So, Mom, this is for you:

I'm sorry.

Okay, I really went deep there. Let's see if I can recover.

My dad was not one for lectures. He taught by example. If he was doing something around the house, or changing the oil in the car, or mowing the lawn, and I happen to walk by, and he happened to be in the mood, he would stop me and show me how it was done.

Not that he didn't lecture. But his lectures were more like a form of Turrets Syndrome.

I'll give an example.

One time I'm watching the television show the Dukes of Hazzard. My parents had these friends that also had three boys who were all around the same ages as me and my brothers. So we are all over there one day and I, along with the rest of the kids, are all sitting around the television watching Bo and Luke tear through the Georgia countryside in the General Lee, Roscoe hot on their tails. My dad walks in. In fact, he's walking through, heading outside. But he notices what we're watching and stops.


I should point out that my brothers and I watching the Dukes of Hazzard wasn't new. We watched it every week at home. It wasn't something we did in secret; we didn't hide it from our parents. My dad was fully aware that we were fans of the show.

Yet that day, he stopped. And in an angry voice he very nearly shouts out:

"I hope you don't think that you can drive like that once you all have cars"

Then he leaves.

He really seemed angry about it too. We all thought it was funny. Of course we didn't think we were going to be able to jump trains and speed about town like a couple of idiots.

But that was my dad.

I don't remember him ever doing anything like that before or since, but for some reason it really stuck out in my mind.

I also remember Dad having an issue with me listening to the song I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News.


I think he assumed that the song was actually about taking illegal drugs. I tried to explain that it wasn't, and in the end he let me keep the tape, but I don't think he was happy about it.

Keep in mind, this is the same guy that bought my older brother the Shout at the Devil record by Motely Crue with no apparent hesitation.


But again, seriously, my mom and dad were great parents. Any of my failings in life can be attributed to me, and not to anything Mom and Dad may have done wrong with my upbringing. Lord knows they were great examples of keeping a household running when the money was tight. They taught me how to stretch a dollar, how to budget my income, the importance of punctuality, the importance of commitment, to always honor your promises, to go to work every day, to be polite to others, and to always remember my manners.

They taught me all of that.

I just must have been sleeping when they did.

You did great, Mom and Dad, my failures are my own.

Dad took me to my first comic book store and bought me my first comic. Something I'm sure he regrets now each time he climbs up into the storage area above his shop and see's my boxes of comics and other nerd crap that I can't fit into my own home because the attic is already full of the very same.


Okay, my collection isn't that big, but it sure is less organized.

There is so much more I could say, but I won't.

Instead, I'll sum up.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me a childhood filled with joy and love. I often think of you when I deal with my own children and I hope each time that I'm doing it right.

You were both always there for me when I needed you, and you still are. That's all anyone can ever truly ask for in family.

Happy Anniversary. If medical science has its way, I hope your next 50 are as good as the first.

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