Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

Recently we celebrated my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary in Colorado at my sister’s house. It was a gorgeous night as we raised a glass to toast their special day as a bagpiper played in the background. At that moment, there as the sun set, I thought of so many things. I thought about how marriage is about compromise and forgiveness among other things. I thought about how my parents made it through hard times and also shared so many good times.

I thought about the keen sense of adventure and love of travel they have always shared. They both have a bit of wanderlust and will take a trip pretty much anywhere at a moment’s notice. This is not just because they are both retired; they have been this way since they got married.

Maybe that is because my grandmother, my mother’s mother, was dying of breast cancer when they were married. She was so ill that she had difficulty attending the ceremony and left the reception early. She was in the throes of chemotherapy to try to save her life. My mother and father began their life together with the acute sense that life is short and should be lived to the fullest, each and every day; they were only twenty four and twenty at the time. They were young and in love but knew that their time together could be cut short at any moment. So they decided to live out their dreams

My father had always wanted to live in Australia. So after they had been married a few years, we packed up and moved. My sister was six, I was four and my brother was 18 months old. We went on a wonderful month long cruise to get to our new home. After living in Perth for a year, we moved to Melbourne on the other side of the country. Eventually my mother got too homesick and insisted that we move back to the United States. We boarded a plane and flew to Hawaii and then Los Angeles so they could take us to Disney Land.

We moved several times over the next year or so and finally ended up in Atlanta. We moved once during that time; to a bigger house in a better school district. At that point, my parents decided they couldn’t uproot us again until after we finished high school. That didn’t stop their travels though, they left us often (yes, alone) to take trips to exotic destinations whenever they felt the need to get away.

The year I graduated from college, they sold our house and moved to Germany. This time it was my mother whose dream they were following; she had always wanted to live in Europe or Ireland. They were there for a year or two and then back in the States and then they moved to Northern Ireland for ten years.

All the while, my sister, brother and I were trying to keep track of their current address so we knew which house or country to call. They never seemed too concerned or phased by the fact that we found this to be unsettling. It wasn’t about us. My father would often say, “If I died tomorrow, I would have no regrets, I did everything I ever wanted to do.”

Even though I have resented what I thought was their selfishness at times, I have to admire their courage and commitment to each other. I realized as I watched them pose for pictures that they have stayed young at heart and they are still on a journey. And what a great journey they have had. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!


Chez said...

Jeanne, I certainly have mixed feelings as I read this Post. Your parents are to be congratulated for reaching the milestone of 50 years! Maybe it was the circumstances regarding your Grandmother that led them down this path. Maybe there is no definitive answer. Personally, I am unsure how parents manage to live their lives in this way. My family have always been my life. Where I went, they went.
Do you think maybe I could be a little envious knowing that my days on this earth are numbered?

Jeanne Marren Egan said...

You are very perceptive. My parents had a very different view of life because they both had to deal with the fallout of my grandmother's death when they were so young. They ended up taking care of my uncle who was just thirteen when my grandmother died in addition to us. The minute he graduated from high school they packed us up and we moved. My brother, sister and I are the complete opposite of them- we all want to be rooted and our families are all important. I personally admire their courage to do things their way and understand it for what it is.
I think it is important to be honest about the things that have shaped my life. Thank you for your honesty as well.

Lauren said...

Congratulations to your parents.
They've clearly learned how use tough situations to bring them closer together- I think we can all learn from that. Your lucky to have grown up with good role models, even if some of their decisions to move were difficult.

-Lauren (