Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Random Thought - Unexpected Lives

The following is a mostly faithful recreation of the speech I gave at my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration on October 13th, 2018:

Fifty years ago, they were a small town boy from Indiana and a small town girl from Illinois.

I don't think they expected to be getting married at eighteen.

I don't think they expected to be parents at nineteen.

When they got married, I think they expected that my father would become a history professor and they would live in some sleepy college town where he would wear tweed jackets with patches on the elbows and smoked a pipe while grading papers. That plan didn't work out.

I don't think my mother expected that her studies would be disrupted the way they were. I can still remember being taken with her to classes at Parkland Community College as she tried to keep pursuing her education.

I don't think they expected to move to Washington D.C., packing their two children and everything they owned into an orange Datsun station wagon to move to the crappiest, roach-infested apartment in Arlington.

I don't think they ever expected to move overseas, or find themselves living in Africa.

I'm pretty certain they never expected to be changing the tire of a van as a pride of lions looked on.

I don't think they ever saw themselves stopping to help some members of the Chinese Peace Corps when their car had broken down, and because my father spoke no Chinese and the Peace Corps volunteers spoke no English, they communicated entirely in Swahili, which was their only common language.

I don't think my mother ever expected to be the Queen of Aerobics in Kinshasa.

I don't think they ever expected to send one of their children to a boarding school on a different continent from the one they were on.

I don't think they ever expected to be driving away while I stood on the steps of the school and waved.

But if they had not been willing to embrace the unexpected, if they had not been willing to accept what came they would have missed so much.

They would have missed seeing a cheetah in the wild.

They would have missed climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

They would have missed swimming in the Indian Ocean at Bahari Beach.

My mother would have missed going shopping with Jackie Hassan when Jackie forgot which stores her family owned.

They would have missed seeing castles on the Rhine.

They would have missed the tall ships festival in Amsterdam and eating ice cream in the cold, because ice cream is hard to come by in Africa and we wanted some despite the freezing temperatures.

They would have missed seeing David in Florence.

They would have missed going to the Acropolis. They also would have missed losing all my Lego on that same trip. I'm still a little bitter about that.

At every turn my parents embraced the unexpected. They took the curveballs life threw at them in stride. They didn't get the life they expected. In the end, the life they did get was so much better than that.

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  1. That’s such a nice speech! My own parents’ fiftieth anniversary happened in a Turkish restaurant with just the family. No speeches! It must have been a special event for your parents - and what a wonderful life they have had!

    1. @Sue Bursztynski: A celebration at a Turkish restaurant sounds lovely. That said, I really enjoyed my parents' celebration. In addition to my speech, my brother made a speech, my Aunt read a prepared letter from my sister-in-law, my Uncle made a speech, and the Best Man and Maid of Honor from my parents' wedding gave speeches. My cousin and his wife performed two songs as well, including my parents' "song" Happy Together.