35 Years: Musings on the Power of Love
For Barb and Dan Westmoreland on their 35th wedding anniversary.
My parents are a power couple. No, not the kind with his and hers BMWs, inflated egos and power suits— the kind that lovingly changes lives, one person at a time. Tomorrow they will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. For those who know them well, this milestone of love and commitment comes as no surprise. After all, Barb and Dan’s marriage is a microcosm of how they live their lives— with gusto, compassion, and devotion.
A few weeks ago, I came across a photo of my parents on their second date (to the Renaissance Festival) in 1972. My second comment (after mocking whatever mismatched…er…”fashion-forward?” polyester apparel my dad was sporting—you know, obligatory daughter stuff) upon seeing it was “Wow. It’s amazing to think that you had a life before us.” I was only half-kidding. It blows my mind to think of my parents meeting, dating and falling in love. I can’t fathom the fact that, just like the rest of us who have made commitments to partners, they went through that heady period of truly getting know each other—the good comes first, of course, followed by the not so good—the exhilaration, the vulnerabilities, the anxieties, the desires, the setbacks, the personality flaws that you finally decide you can work with, the love that you can’t imagine living without. Even though I’ve seen the photos and heard the recording of my dad’s emotion-filled voice singing to his bride, it’s hard for me to imagine them taking this major step in their lives together— committing to be there for each other, to have and to hold, from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do they part.
That’s because, when it comes to the Barb and Dan I’ve known my entire life, this sense of love and commitment has always been a given. Their relationship is not perfect; I’ve never seen one that is. However, the bedrock is solid. I’ve seen them withstand some intense challenges over the years— dying parents, struggling friends, and I know there have been periods when Annie or I stressed them to the max. They’ve always rolled up their sleeves, dug right in, and dealt with the problem at its root. As I look back on those times, the thing that strikes me most is their partnership. Whatever challenge Mom was facing became Dad’s challenge, too, and vice versa.
It’s been wonderful to watch my parents grow as individuals (taking on new projects, becoming interested in new things, refining their skills) and as partners, especially over the past few years. Their relationship has never stopped evolving. I am inspired by their ability to pour themselves into their work, passion projects, friendships and families. I am even more inspired by the way they support each other, making it possible for each of them to achieve greatness in so many ways.
Not a day goes by that I don’t recognize how fortunate I am to have grown up with such loving, engaged parents. I know that 99% of why I am happy and fulfilled today has to do with my parents’ influence. I also realize that this process started the moment I was born, and I was reminded of this fact a few months ago.
Several weeks after I gave birth to Lyla, we were over at Mom and Dad’s. I gave Lyla to Dad while I went to use the restroom. When I came back out to the living room, Dad and Lyla were nowhere to be found. As I was looking for them, I heard muffled giggling coming from Mom and Dad’s bedroom. I opened the door slowly and saw that Dad had snuggled Lyla up next to Mom as she was waking up from her nap. Mom was sleepily playing with Lyla’s little toes and cooing loving words in her ear. Dad was lying on the other side of Lyla, stroking her head. When he saw me at the door, he jokingly said “Go away! This is our baby!” and turned back to his granddaughter. I disobeyed his “order,” and as I watched them with her, it dawned on me that this is what my first days on earth must have looked like. It was like staring into a time capsule. My eyes filled as I thought of my parents sharing all of the love they had as a couple with their first child, then a second child, and friends, and family and eventually the communities they both serve.
Indeed, something powerful was happening in that photo from 1972. Perhaps unbeknownst to them at the time, my parents were laying the foundation for a beautiful life. Not just for themselves, but for so many others.
Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.