Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Birthday

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do." --Eleanor Roosevelt 

My mother celebrated her birthday today. She turned 82. 

This birthday was different-- her first birthday in 65 years without my dad by her side.

She met Dad when she was only 17. Bright girl that she was, she’d graduated high school early and was already in what was known as “business college”—the 1940s version of today’s community college. Dad was 22, not long out of the Marines, returned from WW II in the Pacific.

Although young himself, Dad had been around the block with girls more than a time or two. We know of at least two engagements; we believe there were still others. He loved the ladies! The young man fell in love often and hard.

Looking at a photo of Mom in 1947, I can see why Dad fell in love for the last time when he met her. A Catholic school girl with long, thick, wavy, hair, she flashes a shy smile. Tall, slim, studious, and penniless, Mom returned the affections of the equally penniless young man from Virginia.

Within months they were married, within the year they were parents of a son.

They had four more children over the next 15 years. Their marriage was sometimes stormy, and at times it looked like they might call it quits. They stuck it out, when even their own children sometimes wondered what kept them together.

By their sixties the marriage had caught a second wind. They had raised their children, and even raised a couple of their grandchildren. They still fussed at each other sometimes, but were committed to each other in a way that only couples who have been together for decades can fathom. They’d been tested, time after time.

But death parted them when Dad died in November of 2011.

Mom made it through her first birthday since 1948 without him. This will be a year of firsts for her. She walks in a new world, a new terrain rolling under her feet, like the deck of a ship. Sometimes she feels adrift, yet she moves forward.


  1. If life is not both a roller coaster, and a ship at sea, I don't know what it is. Well-told, Melanie.

  2. With her wonderful daughter to help steer her.

  3. Loved your coconut bra post, lady. Beautifully written.

  4. The 'firsts' are so hard. What a wonderful story about your parents. Happy birthday to your mom!

  5. Aw, thanks. She is even stronger than I imagined.

  6. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Melanie! I know you are all still healing, but you are so strong. Hugs to you!

  7. "They stuck it out, when even their own children sometimes wondered what kept them together."

    Been there. As both the child and the parent. Your mom sounds like quite an inspiration.