The third great event of this Summer (after Jessica and Bryan’s graduations and Jessica and Lucas’ wedding [See July 22]) was celebrating my Dad and Mom’s 50th wedding anniversary. We had a great vacation in Camillus, NY with this celebration as the high point. Thanks to the great planning and hard work of my brother and sister-in-law, everyone had a wonderful time. We had a great dinner with lots of extended family and friends at a very nice little Polish restaurant in Solvay. The next day Mom and Dad renewed their wedding vows (for another 50 years) at the Sunday morning church service.I took an extended vacation and spent about 10 days with them altogether. I even enjoyed helping them with a few things around the house; getting them off AOL and onto a real ISP and tackling a few needed plumbing projects. Now they think of me fondly whenever they flush the basement toilet.
Here is a copy of my “son number one” speech at the celebration dinner:
I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to speak about Mom and Dad on this 50th anniversary of their wedding. I know that many of you were present at the big event. I was a little late for the wedding. The number of this anniversary reminds me that in nine months and one week I will be celebrating my 50th birthday! Mom and Dad didn’t waste any time in starting a family. And I am happy about that.
My earliest memory was of Mom explaining how I needed to be careful with my brother, John, since he was only one year old. I must have had a reputation even then for giving my brother grief. I remember running upstairs one day at the sound of his crying. I came into his bedroom to see John standing up in his crib crying loudly. Mom arrived a few moments later and assumed that I had been the cause of his discomfort, sending me back downstairs with a reprimand. I didn’t touch him Mom, honest! Then there was the time that I anointed myself with a bottle of Mom’s perfume. What gave me the idea to open it an pour it out on the top of my head, I don’t know. I only remember how badly it stung my eyes and how quickly Mom was there when I started screaming. Mom was there to reassure me once when a childhood fear that I was alone in the house overcame me. Later, in my teen years, she was there to reassure me that some problems we were going through would not break up our family. Mom and Dad were always there for us when we needed them.
There are many more memories that are even more important to me. They give me a lot of insight into the kind of people my parents really are and what I have to learn from them. For the first 10 years, we lived either with my grandparents or in rented apartments. We didn’t have much money and I remember many of the sacrifices Mom and Dad had to make to feed, clothe, and shelter us, though I didn’t understand their significance at the time. The needs of their kids always came first for Mom and Dad. They have continued to love and support us in countless ways, more than I can number.
One of the things that impresses me most is that, even after Dad became successful in his podiatry practice, we continued to live a relatively modest lifestyle. People were always more important to Mom and Dad than possessions or social status. They have good friends from all walks of life.
Mom and Dad believe in work. We boys always had assigned chores to do around the house. And though I disliked doing them, I’m glad for the experience. When I went out on my own, I knew how to clean house, do laundry and make simple meals. Many of my fellow students weren’t so fortunate. Thanks, Mom! Also, thanks to Mom (and Phil) I knew how, and was not afraid, to change diapers when it came time for me to be a dad. Mom and Dad gave us a great start in life, but they also taught us that life involves working for what you get. Thanks, Mom and Dad for not giving me everything I wanted growing up, but only what you thought was good for me. One of the most important things you taught me was responsibility.
Dad was always giving us kids an incentive to exercise and stay in good health. He would bribe us to go running with him with the promise of ice cream afterwards. He coached us in baseball and took us to the Boys Club and to the park. My little league team, Tyndall’s Funeral Home had an imposing name, but we weren’t much in the rankings. I wasn’t a natural ball player; afraid to swing at the ball. Dad’s advice to me went something like this: Just swing at the ball. You may miss, but if you don’t swing you’ll never get a hit. I remember thinking, What did I have to lose? I got some pretty good hits after that, and I began to really enjoy baseball. There is an important principle behind my Dad’s advice. Life is a lot like baseball. You get a few chances at bat. Sometimes you get a hit. Sometimes you strike out. But if you never take a swing at the opportunities that come your way, you’ll always strike out. Once when I was a teenager, he promised to buy for me a very nice tennis racquet when I could beat him in a game. We played tennis a little this week. I think in about 10 more years I’ll be ready, Dad.
My Mom and Dad are overcomers. They’ve had many obstacles in their 50 years together. Those of you who’ve done it know that, even though it may be very rewarding, raising a family isn’t easy. We’ve had many difficult times as a family. We weren’t always able to handle them well, but Mom and Dad always had a determination to see them through one way or another.
Some people might assume that it is an absence of conflict that keeps people together so long. Those of you who know our family well, know that this could not have been the reason in our case. We’ve had our share of conflict. We didn’t always handle it in the best way, but we didn’t much avoid it either. And that turned out to be a good thing, I think. I was reading something about conflict recently in one of my theology books that helped me to see even our family problems as valuable opportunities. Jürgen Moltmann said that, “Whenever people live together in trust, there are conflicts. A community of trust cannot aim to be a conflict-free community. Conflicts are not the problem. The problem is their resolution. A conflict that has been suffered through prevents stagnation, and awakens new interest in the other person. Avoidance of conflict results in indifference. So trust is the art of putting up with differences and making them contribute to life.” (Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life, p. 99)
If a family doesn’t qualify as a community of trust, then it certainly isn’t much of a family. When all was said and done, we have never been indifferent to one another. I think that it has been Mom and Dad’s determination to survive conflict, their belief that marriage and family were bigger than any problems we faced, that made the difference.
Whenever I get anxious, troubled or insecure, I often think of the parents that God has given me and it helps me feel stronger. I think of what they’ve been through in comparison to what I’m going through and it puts things in perspective. Our family history is a reminder that life isn’t always easy but, especially with God’s help and grace, problems can be overcome and turned into great blessings.
God bless you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for all the encouragement and support you have given me and my family over the years. We love you very much.