they met in high school. mama was best friends with daddy's cousin, who happened to also be dating mama's cousin. (small town living, where everyone is related to everyone. luckily, my parents are not related.) so, daddy's cousin thought it would be great to get mama & daddy together, so they could all hang out together. little did she know that by arranging for the two to go out, she'd be setting up soul mates.
that was their sophomore year and they stayed together through graduation, with plans to be together for the rest of their lives.
they graduated in 1965, at the beginning of the viet nam war and now that daddy was of age, he was vulnerable to the draft. sure enough, his birthday was chosen and he got the letter from uncle sam telling him to report for duty only months after graduating from high school.
however, this didn't change the fact that he was going to have to leave and leave mama behind. so, they decided to get married before he left, because trying to go through a bunch of red tape to get approval to get married after he was an official soldier would take too long. if he was going to have to leave, he was going to do it on his terms, with a wife, not just a girlfriend, waiting for him.
they got married in mama's parents' living room. mama wore a beautiful knee length white dress with a lace overlay. daddy was dashing in his tie. they were surrounded by only those closest to them. it was simple, but perfect.
they had only two months together, as a married couple, before daddy had to leave. the goodbyes were painful. what if something happened? what if he were injured? or worse?
fortunately, he survived and so did their marriage. it was a long 8 years of service, filled with many adventures, like being stationed as a family in places like hawaii and virginia, also serving two tours in viet nam.
they welcomed their first daughter in hawaii, the second in new jersey, the third in virginia. then his service was up and they were able to return home to texas to start a new life together.
while stationed in virginia, they were contacted by two young missionaries, who introduced them to the LDS church, which they decided to join. had they not, and had they not learned of the importance of family through these new beliefs, i would not be here to tell you this story. they had planned to have only 3 children, but went on to have many more. (but i digress...)
after his service during the war, daddy started to have trouble with his eyesight. he first noticed that he couldn't see the stars at night, while stationed in the jungles of viet nam. it was night-blindness, which was only the first symptom of his form of retinitis pigmentosa, a rare degenerative eye disease that eventually causes complete blindness, which they now believe was caused by agent orange during the war.
when i was five, daddy's visual deterioration was bad enough that he was forced into "early retirement" and we fell on hard times, but mama stuck by his side. she even took on part time jobs here and there, even substitute teaching at my school, to be able to buy us christmas presents.
life at this point was not easy, but they never let it get in the way of their relationship. they were a team and they were in love.
i remember helping mama make supper and daddy coming into the kitchen just to kiss her on the cheek and pinch her bum. this was not a rare occurrence, either. :)
|this was when i was the baby of the family|
when mama was 40, she gave birth to baby #10, a girl. the tally was 8 girls and 2 boys and they were done having children.
years passed and things were settled...until they got a surprise. baby #11 was on its way! mama was 49 and daddy was 50 when daughter #9 joined our family. she was the best surprise ever!
|B with my baby sister, petey|
they caught it just before it took him completely. he was hospitalized for a short time then release back home in a wheelchair. mama became his full-time caretaker as he slowly learned to walk again. it was a long process with lasting effects, as, to this day, his hands and feet are still numb and his face is still partially paralyzed. but mama loved him just the same and was there for him every step of the way.
life took a few more twists and turns as time continued to pass by. children were married, granchildren were born, my older brother passed away, and the circle of life continues. my baby sister will turn 16 in september and they now have 30 grandchildren (mack is #29). one of their grandchildren is married with another getting hitched in september. this november they will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary.
today, daddy's eyesight is extremely limited (take a pair of sunglasses, poke a hole about the size of a ballpoint pen tip in each eye and try to see through it - that's what he sees) and, combined with the lack of feeling in his feet, walking around places is difficult. he is usually seen leaning on mama for support to steady him as she discreetly whispers to him where to step to avoid running into people or stumbling. that is how they are in life, too. whether they realize it or not, they've leaned on one another through it all. they're a team, stronger together than they are apart. their love is strong and deep. they are truly soul mates.