He played chess, listened to Pink Floyd, delivered pizza, and was stuck in a word that didn't fit. She was a dreamer, creative and compassionate, hurt and resilient. They met at church, where he was dragged and to where she ran. They fell in love and escaped to each other, barely out of high school, naive and optimistic about the world.
I came along in the middle of their Air Force adventure, and my sister came shortly after. I see orangish-brown carpet, a record player with faux wood casing, Dad’s shoes, blue dresses, a big bird cake, gerbils and parakeets, and my mom’s long brown hair; the warm comfort of love and joy.
I see the way they looked at each other after being away when Dad had been working in Las Vegas while we were all still in Phoenix. We stayed in a little studio with a shared kitchen and got to eat sugar cereal. They were passionate and playful. I remember them on the floor, playing and loving. I remember them.
She took care of everything. Always. She cared for us and taught us. With Phil Donahue’s voice in the background, she broke cycles of pain and wove confidence and esteem into the girls she loved so. She cared for him too, ironing his shirts, cooking his dinner; working to be the wife she’d imagined. He went to work and did his duty. Provided for his family and tried to fit.
And still, they were different. She was always a student, always learning, planning, plotting and pushing herself. He had an early computer and preferred games and adventures in his head to adventures outside the walls. They leaned and they bent as long as they could while becoming and growing.
I remember the day they sat us down. I see the mauve walls and oak cabinets and built in desk. One of them in the chair and the other standing, I don’t remember which was where. My sister, twelve years old, sitting with her knees curled to her belly. They were separating. She was moving out. But it would be fine. It would all be fine. My sister had none of that. Better able to express her anger, I was embarrassed as she said what I couldn’t. It would be fine.
And it was fine. She moved out. And then she moved in. He moved to the basement. Then he moved out. Then he moved in. And on it went as they struggled to find themselves in the midst of teenagers and work and bills.
She was beautiful. She found her voice and her power.
He moved inward. Friends and games and freedom.
As these years went by we left home to find our own way. After paying for colleges and trying to find good work, moving and traveling and moving some more – they returned to the familiar. Perhaps a little more mature, perhaps still drawn together by passion, playfulness and hope– they returned. A new life, a fresh start. Re-building home, creating and re-creating, trying together while always grounded in the connection to the children they raised.
I honestly don’t know how they did it in these years. Not sure when they were together and when they were apart. And it just didn’t matter. It was fine. We had holidays and visits and daily life. Babies were born, loved ones were lost as we each walked through the highs and lows. Scott’s Valley, San Jose, China, Chandler, Fort Collins. In all of the places they found themselves he found work and she kept learning, achieving new goals, growing, working and creating home.
The grand-babies grew in numbers and size and they found their rhythm. Accepting the ‘can’t live with em’ and can’t live without em’-ness’ of life, they found deeper love than they had ever known. I saw them be the grandparents they’d always wished they’d had; Grammie Day and Papa’s Hat and seeing the incredible family that grew out of ‘it will be fine’.
And it was more than ‘fine’. Grafted together by life and struggle, pain and joy, ‘words with friends’, Game of Thrones, Village Inn, constant debate, and constant laughter, they experienced the home, and the fit that has always been there.
In these last weeks the fragility and strength of life and time, marriage and family were brought into clear sight. A feeling of overwhelming sadness mixed with gratitude for all that is and all that has been as the the possibility of this being cut short wash over me. Floods of memories and dreams and connection weave a story of unique and real love.
Their life of better and worse richer or poorer, sickness and health has taught me how to be. How to be in and through the messiness of life. To breathe and laugh with passion and joy. To work and parent and love with resilience. To welcome all that comes with and open Spirit, because I know that in the end, it will be more than fine.