Fifty-five years. If they were alive, they would be celebrating that milestone today on October 8. And we would be celebrating with them. I wish this picture of my parents was as clear as my memory of them.
My mother was born into a successful middle class Irish family in Watertown, New York – can’t get more Irish than “O’Brien” can you? My father was born into a lower middle class typical American family with a large mix of nationalities representing a true melting pot. Some British, some German, some Irish, and . . . some other stuff. Both were born in the 1930s, into a nation climbing out of The Great Depression into a happier and more prosperous time. My mom had children and then supported the family while my dad completed his education. Both were teachers at some point in their vocations and at all times in their nature. Mom taught elementary school and Dad taught college physics and high school electronics.
My parents worked hard for their five children to be able to get a good start in life, and I know we are grateful for them. For years, rice was a staple as it used to be so inexpensive and went a long way on our dinner table. But they sacrificed so we could actually take fairly pricey vitamins and things like cod liver oil (bleh) to enhance our health.
One of the things I most appreciated about my parents was their capacity for joy. Throughout my childhood, they were eager hosts – hospitality was definitely a gift they were endowed with. Bridge parties, pinochle parties, tennis mixers, and scrabble evenings, among other events were an important part of their lives. They were both actually very social, though neither one properly assessed that in themselves. Each thought the other was more social.
But perhaps the most touching memory I have of them is seeing them dance. There was something inexpressibly beautiful about seeing my parents dance together. All their knowing of one another, comfort with one another, desire for one another, playfulness with one another, and their capacity for joy, came together and exuded from them when they danced.
There is something transformative about dancing. Sure, it can be ruined like anything else in this hyper-sexualized, alcoholic culture and day. But in its best form, dancing is an expression of joy. Dancing has been vilified in the past, even by well-meaning people; but the Bible indicates to me that God enjoys our celebrations and joy in this life he has given us.