My parents would have celebrated their 54-year anniversary last week. This was the first year since 2015 they celebrated it together – this time, though, it was in heaven.
My father passed away from dementia complications in April 2016, and my mother followed in December of last year.
I’ve been cleaning out their house with the help of friends and family, and it’s a chore. It’s a length process. But last week, with Mother’s Day and their anniversary both falling during the same week, there were little winks from God in various ways – from finding cards that my mom had given my dad to finding cards that I had sent him when he traveled for work and pictures from my childhood.
One of those winks came from remembering an interview I did with my mom in January of last year about their marriage. And, in honor of their anniversary, I wanted to include it here one more time. In this interview, I’m identified by my initials, JR, and she by hers, KM, for Kathy McDaniel.
JR: Thanks for doing this after I called you about it, you know, just this morning. So let’s get started with something easy: how long were you and Dad married?
KM: Now, Judith, I thought about this – I’m not sure. We married in ‘69, May 16.
JR: How do you not know this? Okay, we can do this. So you just need me to subtract 2015 from 1969 and get the answer? I can do that. (Pause.) You think I can do that?
KM: I don’t know about your math skills. What did you get?
JR: 46 years.
KM: Just say about 50 years.
JR: Okay, 50 years then. How did you know he was “the one”?
KM: Oh, dear. Well, you know, I met him at a dance. He was 19 and I was 18. And he came up and asked me to dance and my first thoughts were, “He’s too short – I’ve got these little heels on, and he looks really young.” But then I thought – he’s just asking to dance, big deal. So I danced with him, but then he never left my side. And we did have so much fun. And then he asked if he could take me home. Well, I had my old car there so I grabbed Clifton (her brother) and I gave him my keys – Clifton was shocked because I never let anyone take me home – and Wayne took me home and made a date for the next day, which was a Sunday afternoon to go to the show. And what I didn’t know then was he had to go tell his girlfriend he was breaking up with her. I found that out afterwards.
JR: (laughing) That’s funny.
KM: When he told me about it, it was not funny.
JR: But you ended up eloping, right? Did you wish you had had a big wedding?
KR: There was no way that was going to happen. I was in three weddings before this with my girlfriends, and I saw what a problem it was and the expense of it. But truthfully, we’d never have gotten both his parents there and it would have been a big mess. But we were married by a preacher.
JR: If you had gotten to have a big wedding, what kind of dress would you have had?
KM: What I had thought about as a teenager was a winter wedding with a white velvet dress.
JR: Aw, that sounds pretty.
KM: And poinsettias. Red ones. But I would be dressed in white velvet.
JR: Why white velvet?
KM: I don’t know. Well – one reason, I always felt like satin – which I had to wear in one of the weddings – and I think it was yellow satin, which was ugly on me to start with – was not becoming.
JR: What advice would you give couples about to get married?
KM: Make sure you know what each other expects. Talk about goals and what you want. Make sure they line up.
JR: Okay, that’s it. Anything you don’t want me to publish?
KM: Not what I said to you, I don’t think. Your daddy was wild, but I knew it beforehand – and I was so glad I married him.
As hard as it has been to lose them both, it is a comfort that they are missed. My parents loved me, and I loved them. That was never and has never been in doubt. And they loved each other.
Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.