Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A First Anniversary

by Patrick J. Walsh

Today is the 65th anniversary of my parents' wedding.

They celebrated 39 anniversaries together, and after Dad passed away, Mom and I marked the day together for 25 more years, always with some little celebration and many happy memories.

Those memories resonate with a special poignancy today, as I mark the occasion for the first time since my Mom passed away at the end of last year.

I remember Mom's description of the young couple driving up Route 9 through Sleepy Hollow and Ossining in their tattered little "Willys" — the compact sedan manufactured by the company that was more famous for producing Jeeps during World War II.

Tired after a long week at work, driving along on their weekly pilgrimage from their apartment in Brooklyn to visit Dad's large Irish family in the suburbs, they would sing at the top of their lungs to keep themselves awake. The fact that they "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket," as Mom used to say, only added to the delight they took in being silly, and being together.

Then there's the day Dad graduated from Saint John's. Having spent the entirety of World War II in the U.S. Navy, Dad went to college in his 20s and worked hard to earn his degree. By the time of his graduation, he had been married for years, and Mom had become seriously ill with tuberculosis and was in the hospital.

Graduation day was also visiting day at the hospital, and Dad opted to skip commencement to spend the day with Mom instead. "I wouldn't have gotten through school if not for her support," he explained to his own Mom, gently breaking the news that he wouldn't be attending the graduation ceremony.

And then there's the day Dad and I went to the Mets game together and ate at the park. Dad was on a diet at the time; Mom would carefully select low-calorie items when she was shopping, and prepared meals designed to help him trim down.

The day of the game, Dad and I hadn't eaten before we got to the ballpark, so we each got a hot dog and a soda. He grinned, "Don't tell your mother," while we ate; and then we watched the game and enjoyed a terrific afternoon together. Hours later, when we got home, Mom greeted us with a big smile.

"How was the game?"

Dad, suddenly looking for all the world like his eight year old son, shrugged and glanced sheepishly at the floor: "I ate a hot dog." And together, they laughed.

That was how they were: innocent, kind, thoughtful; and brilliant. They always thought of each other first, and they dealt with problems with a gentle good humor and a simple devotion — to their children, their faith, their family, their community, and their country. And of course, most of all, they were devoted to each other.

"We celebrate life," Mom used to say.

Today, and every day, with gratitude and joyous memories, I celebrate their life.

© Patrick J. Walsh