My mom and I were talking the other day, and she was telling me about how she and my dad were out to dinner with some friends, and they got to talking about how each couple met and all that. I’ve heard the story before, but there was a twist to it that I’d never heard and I just had to post it.
My parents both grew up in Peoria, Illinois, but they went to different high schools so they didn’t know each other. My mom got married right out of high school, but her husband, Marty, was killed in a motorcycle crash nine months after they got married. She was a secretary at Bradley University, which was where my dad went to college, and so she had seen him there, but they never met, just knew who each other were. One night she was at Steak n’ Shake with a friend, and my dad was there with one of his friends, and so they got to talking. They were all going out to the same club, and so my mom and dad danced together, and they would see each other there on the weekends so they got to be friends. My dad asked her out on a date, and they went to a rock show. I said “Cool! Who’d you go see?” And she said “No. A rock show. Like with actual rocks.” Have I mentioned that my dad is an engineer? That should explain it. But he bought her a turquoise piece that could be made into a pendant, and it’s on her charm bracelet. Anyway.
They dated off and on for five years – not seriously, because they both went out with other people, but they really liked each other. Then my mom decided to move to California. My dad was bummed, but he wrote her lots of letters (which my mom still has) and called and came and visited her when he could. After two years, one day in August they were sitting outside my mom’s apartment in California, waiting for the bus to take my dad to the airport, and he says to her “How long are we going to do this?” She said she didn’t know – did he have any ideas? And he said “Well, we could move in together” and she said “Nope”. So he said “Well, do you want to get married?” And she said yes. So they decided to get married in January.
The part I’d never heard before was how he then had to go home and break up with the girl he’d been dating in Illinois for two years. I mean, she knew about my mom and my mom knew about her, but can you imagine? The guy you’ve been seeing for two years comes home from a trip and is like “I have to break up with you because I’m getting married.” WHAT? Apparently she didn’t take it well, as when my dad was trying to walk down the stairs from her apartment, she was holding onto his leg. She made not have gotten my dad, but at least she had her dignity. Or not.
This seemed so strange to me – I was like “Wait a second. Were you in love with him?” And my mom said “I loved him, but it wasn’t the infatuation of ‘first love’ I’d had with Marty. Your dad had been a committed friend and I knew no one would ever treat me as well as he did, and we were great friends.” And that she loved him more and more as time went on, especially after my brother and I were born, because she wouldn’t have had such wonderful kids without him. Aw.
My parents have been married for 33 years, and they’re still great friends. Now that they’re alone in their house, they do stuff together and with their friends all the time. They go see live music and to art shows and to dinner, and a lot of my mom’s stories will start out with “your dad made me laugh so hard last night…” I’ve never doubted for a minute that they didn’t totally love each other – they are affectionate and kind to each other, and they are excellent parents. They fight and get annoyed with each other too, but it would be weird if they didn’t.
I’ve said it before – I want a marriage like they have. It never occurred to me before how true the phrase “you should be friends first” is when it comes to relationships. There’s definitely something to be said for getting to know someone really well as a friend, and then if there turns out to be an attraction there too, even better. If sparks will fly, that’s awesome. But it’s the friendship that will take you through to forever.