When I woke this morning, the first thing I thought was, This is my parents’ 70th anniversary. Is, not was. They’ve been dead for 10 years (my mum) and 11 years (my dad) but they’re still everywhere in my life. I remember calling my mother on this day 10 years ago, just a couple of months before she died (though none of us knew it would be that soon), and she said, Do you know what day it is? And I did. I knew she’d be feeling particularly sad and I called her to commiserate. From my perspective, theirs was a marriage that was uneven in many ways. My mum was the energy source. She made arrangements, remembered birthdays, cleaned the house, did the laundry, the cooking, and was always upbeat and cheerful. She needed to be because my father was gloomy, taciturn, and in his later years, obsessed with one relationship in his family that had gone sour. The things he’d always liked to do no longer pleased him. He’d been an avid fisherman but couldn’t imagine a new way of doing it once he wasn’t able to pack up his camper, put his inflatable boat on top, and head to one of the lakes he loved. I remember we offered to take my parents on a weekend away from Victoria after they’d sold their house and their camper and were finding apartment living a bit desolate. One of the places we went to as children, I suggested. A lake on Salt Spring Island! You could fish from the dock. We could put a chair out for you. Why bother, he muttered, and wouldn’t consider it, or any other possibility. At the end of his life, he wanted to leave his hospital bed and reconcile with the person who wasn’t there. Those at his bedside were invisible.
But there was a time my parents were young and in love, when my mother glowed with happiness, and this is how I want to remember them today. A marriage is an interesting ecology unto itself. Knowing the elements, the organisms involved, is no guarantee of understanding its complex system. I know they loved each other and they loved the four children they produced together. The symbol for a 70th anniversary is platinum. It’s strong and doesn’t tarnish. Traditional gift is a bouquet of flowers. (I can do that.) Colour is sky blue. If they were alive, I’d open sparkling wine under today’s clear sky, pour them a glass, and toast the years. And maybe that’s what I’ll do anyway. Many happy years ahead, to all of us, and all of us, and all of us, with love.