Sixty-one years ago, Ellen’s and my parents were married. It was a very simple ceremony at the bride’s house. The bride and groom were only 22, hopeful and strikingly good-looking.
The bride’s parents bitterly opposed the marriage because the groom was half-Indian. She should have married an earlier fiance, they always said. The earlier fiance was a home-town boy, a lawyer, who would have been more appropriate. The groom, in contrast, was from a poor family of mixed blood.
Ellen and I grew up with those sad stories, sometimes sanitized, sometimes not. In a way, they formed the foundation of our parents’ marriage: It was them against the world.
In many ways, the couple was a poor match. Mother was high-strung, highly intelligent and prone to crippling depressions. Daddy was low-key and passive, competent at work, but never particularly successful. We never had enough money to lead the middle-class life Mother had grown up in and wanted for us.
But they stayed together and found something that sustained them in each other. Daddy nursed Mother through a long and terrible illness, vigilant and protective to the end.
Eleven years ago, we gathered for a dinner to celebrate their 50 years of marriage. Mother was too ill, too demented to attend. But we toasted them and their years together. It didn’t matter that they had begun their marriage under hard circumstances and it continued under even harder circumstances. We knew we had something to celebrate.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)