Once upon a time in the mid-1930s, a baby girl named Lucille was born into what would eventually become a huge family of 13 children.
This wasn’t a happy, close-knit family, though. The children were terrorized by a brutal, alcoholic father and a mother perpetually cowed by his rampages. He habitually beat the holy tar out of his children, leaving one or two of Lucille’s brothers with mild brain damage as a result.
The family frequently starved. Isolated in the bayous of Louisiana, the father was a fisherman who often drank what little income he had. With so many children, the family seldom had enough to eat. Lucille was so thin that even in her mid-20s she weighed a mere 87 pounds.
Knowing she had to get out of there, Lucille knew her best option was education. Just about the only job opportunities open to women in the 1950s were teaching or nursing. She became a nurse.
She grew into a woman of uncommonly fine common sense. Much of her education outside of nursing was self-taught. She learned to sing. She grew to love classical music. She taught herself many things she never learned at home, the most important of which was to never treat her own children as she herself was treated during her childhood.
She realized what a mistake it would be to marry someone like her own brutal father. Instead, she concentrated on excelling in her chosen profession. She declined the opportunity to become head nurse because she preferred to work hands-on with patients instead of writing reports.
At the age of 26, she met a nerdy-looking man named Michael when they both sang in a church choir. Lucille recognized that, nerdiness aside, here was a man who would be an excellent father and husband. She was right. Michael turned out to be a man with a brilliant mind and a kind disposition.
Fifty years ago this very day – August 30, 1958 – this couple stood in church and made vows to each other before God and family.
I’ve seen the black-and-white photos. There stood a skinny woman in an all-lace dress, facing a man four years her junior in front of a priest. Probably both of them were nervous.
Almost exactly four years later, following the birth of their first son, I was born.
My parent’s married life wasn’t always easy. It was plagued with recurrent health problems with my mother, who underwent a dozen major operations for various ailments, some of which can be traced to the abuse she experienced as a child. (One year as a joke Christmas gift, my father gave my mother a “gift certificate” to our local hospital.)
My mother suffered through multiple miscarriages and staggeringly difficult pregnancies, so complicated that after three live births my parents gave up having more biological children and adopted my youngest brother to complete their family. My father survived a cancer scare and then a grave heart attack that nearly killed him.
They faced serious financial hardship when my father left his corporate job and started his own business about the time the ’70s recession and oil crises hit. But they persisted, working together to overcome the obstacles that fate threw in their path. My father’s cool head for business and sound ethics meant that his company gradually grew despite the economic slowdown. My mother could have gone back to work as a nurse, but she knew the importance of staying home with her children.
My parents always knew to put family over profit. While their wallets were often thin, their hearts were full. They tempered their challenges with humor, love and marital devotion. They gave their children the blessings of a stable home, something I took for granted until I reached adulthood and began to recognize it for the gift it is.
They cheered us on our childhood activities and kissed the boo boos when we failed. They sacrificed financially to send us to college. They were always there for us. I could always count on that, and still do.
Their example is the foundation for my own happy, stable marriage. Without the illustration of what true commitment was like, I doubt I would have been as fortunate in my choice of husband. Now the gift is being handed down to my children, their grandchildren. And so the legacy continues.
This is not a big story of earth-shattering importance. This is a small story about two people in a world of billions. But these two people – along with the millions of other small stories out there – are the real hope for a better world. Small stories add up, and that’s why I’m writing this.
Knowing that my parents would be celebrating their golden anniversary this year, I’ve spent a long time wondering what kind of suitable gift I could offer to show my love and gratitude. My husband and I are not wealthy. We cannot afford to fly down to join my parents as they celebrate half a century together.
Then last May, the unexpected happened. WorldNetDaily offered me a column. Suddenly I have a modest opportunity to offer public accolades to a couple who raised four children with the best possible example of marital faithfulness and devotion.
I am not a woman of many talents. I cannot draw pictures or sing songs or sculpt pottery. I am not clever with crafts or skillful at sewing or proficient at painting.
But I can write.
So Mom and Dad, this is my gift to you by way of my one talent, writing. This is a written tribute to the example of 50 years of love, faithfulness and friendship you’ve given us. Happy Golden Anniversary. I love you to pieces and hope to make you proud as Don and I follow your footsteps toward a golden life together. Thanks for everything you’ve ever done for us.
Let’s go for 75, shall we?
Won’t you join me in offering congratulations to my parents on their 50th wedding anniversary?