Sixty Years Strong

I can’t believe they have been married for sixty years.  I can’t imagine doing ANYTHING consistently for sixty years, except maybe eating.

That’s 21,900 nights together!  10, 950 Jeopardy shows they’ve watched through the years.

I wonder what makes them still like each other.  I asked my mom, what is the secret sauce?  She told me that she wants my dad to be as happy and full as he possibly can be, and he wants the same for her.  Maybe a lesson on selflessness, putting others’ needs before your own.

My dad’s advice?  Never go to bed angry.  I don’t think that’s a problem for them because they hardly ever argue.  Oh, they have differing opinions about things.  My dad makes a mess in the kitchen and cleans it all up when he’s done.  If my mom uses a spoon, she washes it before another utensil comes out of the drawer.  There is no mess in the kitchen – ever.  They had to replace their counter tops because she wiped the marble off.

I think, after sixty years, they’ve just come to accept each other’s flaws.  I probably have more than dad – that may not be so easy for my wife.

All of us likely develop our first impressions on what a marriage should be based on what we see at home.  What I saw as a kid was parents who showed affection for each other – yes, it was gross, but they kissed and hugged and flirted on a regular basis my whole life.  They worked as a team – cooking together, cleaning up together, teaching Sunday School together, hosting parties.  Mom and Dad LOVE to host a party!

They still scheme over what they get each other for Christmas, always trying to surprise the other with some little something special.

They laugh and laugh about the simplest things, like calling out my name as loudly as possible in the middle of K-Mart when I was a very embarrassable teenage boy.  They thought that was hilarious.  It actually wasn’t.

They studied the bible together, teaching Sunday School class at our church.  They read devotional books and prayed with us.  They showed me that a strong marriage is rooted in faith.

They have known each other since before high school.  In fact, my grandparents always told me they were in the same baby room at First Baptist Church in Florence, SC.  They were friends in high school, but never dated.  And then one Christmas, must have been about 1958, when dad was home from college, he randomly called mom to go out to catch up.  The rest is history.

I love their story.  I love them.  I am so thankful they are my parents and am so thankful that they showed me what a really, really good relationship looks like.

Six and Counting

bruce and Lisa

It’s beautiful to remember the happy.

Six years ago today, our wife, mother, daughter, and friend died.  I want all who knew her, especially my girls, to remember the good stuff.  And there was plenty!

Her fingernails were impeccable.  She used gel.  It coats your fingers with some fake substitute for your claws, and it costs a fortune.  She argued that they last “forever.”  I don’t know what forever she was referring to, but in my book a couple of weeks does not constitute a lifetime.

One time the two of us cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought the neck bone stuffed in the turkey’s cavity was his penis.  She didn’t know any better either.  We burned everything, except dessert which was grossly under-cooked.  Cheesecake soup anyone?  I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

She was a sale shopper.  Problem was that she’d buy a blouse at a “great price” with no matching bottom.  When she died, I found countless items of clothing with the tags still on.  I’m sure she would have worn them, eventually.

She gave our girls wings.  When we dropped DJ off at four week camp for the first time, my daughter teared up.  I ran to the car to get the heck out of Dodge.  Lisa, on the other hand, gave her words of encouragement and distracted her with new friends.  “I am nurture,” I explained to my wife on our way home.  “You, you give them courage.”  I had done my job, she had done hers.

Fortunately, all got some of her bravery genes.

She insisted on matching dresses for the kids when they were younger.  In one Christmas photo, when DJ was about 9, she stood behind Santa in a dress that made her look like a prairie child.  It didn’t matter.  The whole family blended so well.

She once stood me up on an early date in our courtship.  I was so stinkin’ mad.  But apparently not mad enough.

We spent our first weekend together hiking on Grandfather Mountain, I flossed at the apex.  And she still married me.

Our honeymoon got cancelled on the night of our wedding because American Airlines pilots went on strike.  I’ll never forgive those greedy mongrels.

She once bought a rug for DJ’s bedroom that cost so much she never divulged what she paid.  To this day I do not know.

She built relationships with everyone she came in contact with.  She was as close to our babysitters as she was to her college roommates.  Her hair dresser was a confidante.  Those at work called on her to approach their boss, because he loved her to death.

She enjoyed a bit of gossip and was the last person to walk out of the church on any given Sunday morning, because she was talking.

She was a leader in our community and could organize a thousand high school kids, a Junior League Committee or a kitchen drawer with ease.  But she seldom lifted a finger until the day before a deadline.

I fell in love with her on a canoe at Camp Seafarer.  She got to me.  There was just something about that Lisa Tanner that I couldn’t shake.

I am thankful for the years we had.  I am thankful for these beautiful memories.

Sunday Post 157: Four Years Ago

It was four years ago tomorrow. Seems like longer. In many ways I’ve done more in the past four years than I did in the first forty-four. That’s actually sort of pathetic.

I don’t have the intense feelings of grief this time. There are a few, but it doesn’t feel like someone is stomping on my chest.

What I have noticed every February for the last four years, is that I find myself in a fog. It’s like I’m walking around in a card board box.

I’ve struggled to focus, like a fly on horse poo. I’ve missed a few appointments – one where I put the meeting in my calendar starting at 10 PM, not AM. The girls’ winter break snuck up on me. Didn’t line up child care until two weeks out. That’s not typical for me.

On Saturdays I usually conquer the world. Lately, I’m fine to sit. I’m not really doing anything – I guess I’m just thinking, sort of day dreaming.

Sitting – how uncharacteristic of me.

Knocking out push ups is a nightly activity year round. Right now each one feels like a mammoth undertaking.

I do find myself reliving that last week of her life. She in the hospital in her blue, cotton robe. Those last few days were painful.  Scary. Wish I could dismiss them. Unfortunately, they’re etched.

My buddy reminds me this is my month – “It was like this last year too Danny, remember?”

“Yeah, I do.” Hunker down. It’ll be over soon.

Sunday Post 109: “What a Fool Believes”

It’s no longer a devastating pain.  It doesn’t burn to the soul.  It can’t physically take me to the floor in anguish like it did 3 years or even 18 months ago.  But February is my foe.  I guess I’ll battle with him every year for the rest of my life.

He’s cold.

Mid month he’s promoting love, and I don’t have that kind anymore.

From the 14th on, I can replay, day by day, the scenes from three years ago – the weeks before she died.

It starts out OK – just an extension of his cousin January.  But then “What a Fool Believes” comes on the radio, and I start singing like I’m Michael McDonald.

She’d laugh at that every single time – rolling those eyes.  “You do love that song don’t ya’ baby?,” her question would just add fuel.  I know I  have her attention now, I ham it up even more.

He came from somewhere back in her long ago

The sentimental fool don’t see

Trying hard to recreate what has yet to be created

Once in her life

I used to sing in laughter.  Now it’s through tears.

This year I made it until the 10th before I felt the hole.  No weeping at church until last week.  There is a circle of emotional instability that hangs in my core at this time of year.  It’s bigger than an egg but smaller than a baseball, right above my stomach.  I can take a deep breath, I can swallow and hold it down – most of the time.

Only one week and it’ll be over.

I hate you February.  I hate your guts.

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