Sunday, September 09, 2007


My parents were married on this day in 1950. They had 51 anniversaries together before they died, less than 3 months apart, in 2002. I've been ambivalent about their marriage for many years. Was it remarkable that they were together for 51 years? Yes. Was it good for each of them? I'm not so sure about that.

My parents had 6 kids, all of whom survive to this day. My mom said she felt she probably had some miscarriages in between my next older sister and me -- given that she had her first three daughters at 17 month intervals, and I was born 51 months after that, it seems likely that she is correct. I don't know if they meant to have a lot children or if that is just the way things played out. This was the 1950s and early 60s, so it's not like they were all that unusual in the number of kids they had.

Six kids were a lot of work and pressure, though. My parents were the first generation in their families to go to college. Heck, my grandfather's wish was that my father finish high school. Thanks to WWII and the GI bill, my parents went to college, where they met and married. Their goal was to give each of their children a college education. They paid tuition, room & board; we paid for books, transportation home, and other expenses of college life. All but one completed bachelors degrees, and the last chose to quit school after 3 years since he really didn't like it.

I think this goal is a major part of why my father became an alcoholic, as his increasing use of alcohol seemed to tie to increasing number of kids at or approaching college age. For two and a half years, he had 3 kids in college, on one engineer's salary. I can understand why this pressure would drive him to drinking. He also changed jobs a few times, including the time he quit his old job with no new one arranged and a few months before he had two kids in college. I was there when he told my mom he'd quit, and I had never seen her turn so white or rigid. I was only 11, and my parents did not really discuss finances with us, so I didn't really understand the situation.

My mother later developed an extremely vituperative tongue when it came to my father, and most people for that matter. She could only see the negative and would bitch until the cows came home and about how the cows came home once they were home.

I was talking with my SIL one time about my parents (her father also was an alcoholic). We agreed that my mother had cause for her bitterness, esp. since my father was nasty-tongued to family when drinking, but that either of us would find drinking necessary to live with my mother at that point in her life.

Because they were so miserable together, I often wished, especially as an adult, that my parents would divorce and create new lives for themselves. I think around the 30-year mark would've been a good time for this. Kids would be either grown or in college, so less disrupted. Parents would've been roughly 60 with reasonable health (for alcoholics) left.

They stayed together and miserable for many more years. My father got sober in 1987 but was drinking again by 1995. My siblings and I, sans spouses and children, got together in 2000 to take my parents to dinner for their 50th anniversary. I had mixed emotions about participating since I didn't see the 50 years as something to celebrate. I showed up, though. My brother arranged a small banquet hall for the 8 of us, but my father said he didn't feel well and didn't go. We weren't sure if he was feeling sick because we had been at their apartment most of the day, so he hadn't been able to get to his alcohol or what the deal was. His absence allowed my mother to choose to drink, which could get ugly, too. It was a nice enough dinner, and I caught an early morning flight out which allowed me to get home in time to run my dog in an agility trial that afternoon (my parents lived in ET, I live in PT zone).

Even now, I feel they would have been better off divorced.

1 comment:

Mrs. G. said...

This is a brave post. My parents divorced when I was five and I know, because of their still strong hatred of each other, that it was a blessing. Had they stayed married, I think I would be seriously screwed opposed to just mildly.