Today would have been my parents’ 39th anniversary.
On an unseasonably warm day in February, 1976, she finally finished hemming her wedding dress before standing with him in front of their family and friends and declaring to love, honor, and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. They exchanged rings, yellow gold for him, antiqued white gold for her, and she forgot to retrieve her bouquet from her Matron of Honor, so my Aunt Marlene had to wrestle two huge sprays back down the aisle (they were enormous, no joke). As a little girl, I flipped through the pages of their wedding album, coveting their happiness.
When my dad died, I felt as if the ground under my feet gave way; nothing seemed real, nothing seemed permanent. I wondered if I’d ever really known my dad, or if he’d just been this stranger with whom I coexisted for a couple of decades. There are so many questions I have for him, so many things I’ll never really understand.
Here’s something I do know: my parents’ marriage was real. My father was a hurting and broken man, but his love for my mom was absolute.
After his funeral, we took home a box of extra programs, papers, and cards from flower arrangements, along with random notions from the funeral home. At the bottom of the box was a small, black, draw-string bag that contained that same gold band he slipped on in 1976. It called out to me, a beacon of hope in a world that made no sense — their love was real.
I wear that gold band on the middle finger of my left hand. Every time I see it, I’m reminded that in a world of things that seem unstable, there are absolute truths: the grace of God, the pain of stepping on a Lego, and the love of a young couple in a Methodist church in Fairmont, WV, 39 years ago.