I can only blame it on the fact that I was feeling lousy – still feeling lousy, actually – that I forgot until Friday night that Friday was ten years since my parents’ 50th anniversary. It would be their last one.
My sisters and I decided to surprise them for the event. We called their church, trying to arrange for a room. There was only one problem; someone else wanted the room for the same day. This was months before the date; couldn’t the other party change the date? This is our parents’ 50TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Well, no, because the other party, it turned out, was our father, wanted to have a surprise gig for our mom himself. So we decided to join forces.
I came down with my wife and my parents-in-law, who had met my parents at Carol’s and my wedding only the May before, when my father did all the decorations and floral arranging. We all wanted to help, and did somewhat, but he had a vision, and it was difficult for us mortals to fulfill it in the way he had in mind. So he did most of the church hall decoration himself, with my sister Leslie’s help since she had worked with him on these types of things decades earlier. The rest of us did some of the heavy lifting. The difference between this event and the wedding ten months earlier was that my father had to rest occasionally, maybe more than occasionally.
Sunday, March 12, 2000, we all went to church, diverting our mother from the building’s assembly hall. We attended the church service, during which a peculiar thing happened: my parents were invited to renew their vows. I don’t know if my father knew about this, but my mother, my sisters and I certainly did not. I think my sisters and I gulped a bit. Would she actually say yes? My father could be…well, let’s say, five decades of marriage always has its complications. There was what seemed to be an interminable pause before she replied in the affirmative.
Afterward, we had the party. There was singing and tributes from various folks. My sisters and I had put together one of those video montages of photos that ran throughout the event.
The next day, the wife, the in-laws and I went home. Well not quite home. We left Charlotte at 6 a.m.. got to the in-laws’ house in Oneonta, NY, 715 miles away, at 9 p.m. and just crashed.
What had been a family tradition was to get a family photo every time the Greens got together if it had been a while. The last one we sat for was on their anniversary in 1995, but for some obscure reason – probably the contentiousness of that day (but that’s another story) – we didn’t in 2000. Since my father died that August 10 from prostate cancer, the lack of the family photo became one of those “coulda, shoulda” things in the family lore.