This is not my story to tell, but sometimes you tell a story anyway. A story that impacts you deeply. One that has informed and influenced your entire life. One that you’ve known since the day you were born, but can’t possibly know all of.
Despite what the title says, the story starts more than 50 years ago. It starts in the little town of Hanford, California in the late 1950s in two homes, one right next to the other. In one home lived a family consisting of a mom, a dad, and three little girls. Into the home next door moved another family, a mom, a dad, two little girls, and two little boys.
Okay fine. some of the kids in the second home were teenagers.
On the day the second family moved in one of the little girls from the first home realized something. Something amazing. Something life altering. Something that no one would believe. She met one of the kids in the new family, ran home to her mother and proclaimed “Mama, mama! I’m gonna marry Bobby Scott!”
Cute right? Sounds like the beginning of a sitcom or a movie where something tragically sad happens only to reveal a redeeming lesson later in life. Or a heartwarming novel about the simplicity and beauty of life in small town America.
But that story is none of those things. Or maybe it’s all of them. That story, it’s the story of the day that my mom met my dad. Just one average ordinary day. No one knew it would change the course of their lives or create new life so many years later.
But about a decade later, Bobby Scott asked Nancy Jo to marry him.
And then in July of 1969, after he came home from the war, after she graduated from high school, one day before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, they stood at the altar of my mom’s family church and pledged to be together. Forever.
We skipped a lot there. I know. How did we get from “Mama, I’m gonna marry Bobby Scott” to them both getting through high school, through dating, through him surviving the war, to him asking her to marry him? Those are all stories too. There are so many stories. But none of those are the stories I want to tell today.
Today I want to tell you about the living breathing relationship that is the 50-year marriage of my mom and dad. Little Nancy Jo and the bad boy next door Bobby Scott. But all grown up.
I want to tell you about the times they danced in bars in Texas while my brother and I sat at the table looking on and I snuck sips of margaritas. About the time my mom gave my dad a perm that looked ridiculous. About all the fancy cocktails my dad learned to make because my mom loves them. About the pool parties they threw in Texas. About the pool parties they threw in California that were a little less raucous because of the time my uncle Warren cracked his head open on the diving board at one of the pool parties in Texas.
About the times I saw them each cry. About the years of annoyance and frustration, with themselves, with each other, with their kids. With their parents. About the laughter and the love. About the perfect meals, about the meals so bad we had to order pizza.
And the times I caught one of them just watching the other. Just seeing their partner exist in this world, and then smiling softly. They’ve had problems along the way. They’ve had triumphs. They’ve taught me what it means to be a parent. What it means to be a child. What it means to take up space in this world and be true to both yourself and to those you love.
But 50 years. That’s big. That’s a life. That is more of a life than I have lived. When I think of someone having a 50 year anniversary I think about my Grandparents and the backyard party they threw for their 50th. About my dad and my uncle wrestling in the back yard getting thorns stuck in their shirts and hair. About the balloons. And the teens sneaking drinks. And being amazed that two people could build that life together. I think of sweet old couple that doesn’t know what to do without one another. And Hawaiian shirts, because I think it was a luau themed party.
I see life flashing before my eyes. Like in a movie where someone’s life flashes before their eyes and you know something big is happening but you’re not sure if they’re dying or having an epiphany because it’s a mixed bag of good and bad and then the scene gets brighter and you see the first cry of their grandchild, sunsets on the beach, hot air balloons, sparkling wine, sunset walks on the beach, hands holding one another, laughter, smiles, and dancing the two step.
The point is that where people are, is never quite where you expect people to be. I’ve known my parents my entire life but not for theirs. Who they are, both independently and together, I love.
I don’t know how to end this post. I started writing it almost a month ago knowing that this would be hard. That this would be the challenge. These two, they go on forever…
So, Mom and Dad, you two are crazy and cranky and absolutely beautiful. I’m so lucky that you brought me into this world, into this family that you made. I’m fortunate to say that if I could pick my parents, I’d choose the two of you without question. Thank you for showing me that love is a living breathing multifaceted creation. For never hiding that it takes just as much work as love. I love you, independently and together. Your story is one for the ages.