Today would have been my parents 60th wedding anniversary. Growing up it seemed their anniversary meant more to my brother and I, then it ever meant to them. My parents never celebrated their anniversary. It was just another day on the calendar. But my brother and I, from the time we were old enough, would always get them a gift to mark the occasion. I don’t know why. Maybe we were creating an illusion for ourselves.
My parents were not a happy couple. In fact they fought quite a bit. They were almost like Frank and Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond, except their fights were real. Some of their arguments were pretty bad and over such trivial things that I couldn’t even tell you what they were about. I think they were just incompatible or maybe my mother was just impossible to please.
My mother grew up with an alcoholic father who would come home drunk many nights and beat her mother. This is the “model” of marriage she had. My mother married my father, her first cousin, in a prearranged marriage that took place in Sicily. When my father got his papers together eight months later, he came to America to live with my mother and grandmother till he could get a job and a place of their own. Right in the beginning they had had an argument. My mother used to tell the story all the time of how my father raised his hand to her and she told him off. She told him if he ever hit her it would be the end. Then she went to tell her mother about it. No way was my mother going to be abused like she witnessed her mother being abused. And it never happened again either.
I remember there were lots of arguments. They never seemed to get along very long. There was a stark contrast between the times of “war” and “peace.” When things were good, they were very good and when they were bad it was horrible. Once I heard my mother mention the word “divorce” and it made me sick. My father had no where to go if they ever split up. I was always afraid he would go back to his family in Sicily and we would never see him again. Even if he didn’t go back home, he’d have to move out into his own place. I worried, but needlessly, because they never did anything but talk about it. It taught me a lesson to make sure I knew who I was marrying well enough to know I could spend the rest of my life with him and never to subject my own children to loud, angry arguments.
My mother always put my father down. He could never do anything good enough to make her happy. I never understood it because even though he worked hard in construction all day in all kinds of weather, he would do the dinner dishes every night. On the weekends he would mop the floors, do some shopping, and help out wherever he could around our small apartment. He never had to be told or ask, he just did things that needed to be done. You would think my mother would have appreciated that about him, but she didn’t. And still they stayed together till my father died in 2000 just before their 48th anniversary.
I remember once my mother said to me, “Your father is a good man.” It was just that one time. I thought to myself, at least she knows it…deep down she realizes he is a good man. Too bad he couldn’t have heard it, even if it was just one time in 48 years.