4 March 1944 was the day my parents married. They were married at Third Presbyterian Church at the corner of 26th & Broad Streets in Richmond, VA. It is in the heart of the neighborhood known as Church Hill. The eponymous Church in question isn’t Third but St John’s Church, an Episcopal parish, where in March 1775, Patrick Henry made his “Liberty or Death” speech. I’m afraid this is not taught in the schools any longer, so one day I will post about it.
However, I digress. My Dad was a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant of Marines. They started married life seeing each other on weekends when he had liberty from The Basic School and the field artillery course at Quantico, about 75 miles up U.S. 1 from Richmond. Mother was working as a secretary to an executive at Reynolds Metals, a business that relocated to Richmond in the late 1930’s. Mother got a job because she could type. She also was fluent in Spanish and could translate foreign correspondence.
The War progressed. My Dad was assigned to the 15th Marine Regiment of the Sixth Marine Division. The division was headed to Okinawa where a grim and bloody land campaign was fought. After occupation duty in Japan and Tsingtao, China, Dad came home. He stayed in the Reserve and he split his time between his accounting practice and his military duty. As a result, we had no family vacations at the beach or anywhere else until we were adults. Then our vacations included us children and grandchildren at the beach house my father had built. It was the happiest of times for us all. Dad and Mother loved their grandchildren deeply
Life went on, with all the drama an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (my mother) could bring to the table. Mother herself didn’t drink. You might say she was a carrier of the disease. I think it’s a miracle only one of us four children (me) developed alcoholism and even more of a miracle I found recovery,
Mother’s physical health was always a bit precarious with hypertension, obesity, diabetes, gynecological issues. She had a quintuple bypass at age 69 in the summer of 1988, at the time we adopted my younger son.
When 1994 came around we wanted to do something special for our parents’ Golden Anniversary. I made a video of all the houses my parents alone or with the family lived in. We planned a party for that day March 4th. The day before, my mother fell. It wasn’t just a fall. Unbeknownst to us, she had had a stroke. Twenty-five years ago, first response knowledge of what to do after a suspected stroke wasn’t what it is now. Mother’s stroke was serious, debilitating. She had to use a wheelchair. She lost most of her ability to speak, even though she understood conversations.
Labour Day Weekend, 1995, Mom died. She was 76. Dad was a widower, who remarried Valentine’s Day 2000. He and my stepmother were together until August 2011, when he died aged ninety.
Around the time of the anniversary, I started antidepressant medication (Prozac). I started feeling good and decided that living with an active alcoholic wasn’t good for me, I made a decision to do an intervention on my alcoholic wife. Ultimately I got honest about my own drinking and cannabis use and got sober myself. My wife went to treatment on 6 July 1994, (Mother’s birthday coincidentally). I quit drinking 10 July 1994. Our marriage ended shortly after. I guess my ex-wife stayed sober most of that time. She stopped speaking to me in 2013. In 2015, she died, without telling me she was terminally ill.
In 2001, I remarried, converted to Catholicism in 2010. My elder brother died in December, 2014 at age 65. I had surgery in 2015 that ended my working career. I am a Stay At Home Husband. I blog, manage my health, swim, go to AA and Mass whenever I can.
It will be 4 March 2019 in about 92 minutes. My elder son now lives a few blocks from the building where his grandparents were married, in a more or less gentrified neighborhood. The Church itself moved about sixty two years ago.
This is a time of gratitude that my parents made that commitment to each other that brought my two brothers, my sister and me into this world. I have the life I have, for better or worse, for that decision they made seventy-five years ago.
I love you Dad. I love you Mom. I miss you both. We all turned out OK. You loved each other enough to risk everything for a life together. Thank you. We owe everything to you.