Tonight I am blessed to participate in a community celebration of one very special couple, Carl and Carol, as they celebrate 50 years of marriage. In that 50 years, they have raised their own family, but they have also raised a number of other very fortunate kids. Two of those kids are my own who are now 24 and 22.
My kids got to grow up with brothers and sisters at Carol’s house. They got to romp around the yard, a cemetery, the neighbors, and in every room of their house. Those hours at Carol’s house were the true basis of childhood. Yes, there were scrapes and bruises, tears and laughter, bites from 2-year-olds, shared toys, and old time cartoons.
More importantly there was unconditional love. My kids were not blood related to all their “brothers and sisters” who found Carol’s house to be home after school, during the summer days, or even the days before school. But each one of them received unconditional love. They were taught boundaries. They were taught right and wrong. They were family.
Unconditional love is a quality that we all have, but sometimes we do not let it go out to the others who we bring into our lives or even pass on the street. The unconditional love that my kids and myself received at Carol’s and Carl’s home made a world of difference to us. We had tough times during those years. When I got there after school, I would sit down at the kitchen table and share the day with Carol. I would also hear how her day went with the kids. I needed her unconditional love.
Now Carl. Well there was an unwritten rule in my book. I could sit there at that kitchen until Carl came home. He drove in from the city and would arrive around 6 p.m. One could also guage my day by how long I stayed. My kids were with me. They were happy. They did not want to go home either. But once Carl rolled in, we would all say hi and he would tease them a little bit, but then we loaded up the car–kids, bags, and so on. We headed home.
Carol was instrumental in my kids’ wellbeing. Yet, my daughter was the true recipient of her mother’s instinct. As a two-year-old running around with other kids, she did not develop language. This was pretty odd considering she lived with an older, verbal brother and two English teacher parents. Carol was concerned and because of that she took a step further and asked a speech pathologist friend to come meet my daughter. It worked. It lead to speech therapy and so much more, but my daughter is almost through with college and it has not been easy. I dare not think what it would have been without Carol’s insistence that she needed special attention.
During the year Mom suffered with her cancer, I found solace in that kitchen. I cannot tell you how many tears I shed or how many stories I shared with them. That kitchen table was the best psychiatrist couch around. My kids were always glad to be at Carol’s. It was where they had a childhood and I had comfort.
The years have flown by since I picked up the kids from Carol’s house the last time. But I have always been able to go back. Chance meetings always bring hugs and thanks. My amazement even doubled when I learned that my second husband had worked with Carl, maybe years before I met them. He knew of Carl’s sound judgment and great personality. What a surprise it was when we put two and two together. Today, we all, my current husband, myself, my son and his wife, and my daughter all have an opportunity to say thank you and congratulations. Thank you for all the unconditional love and friendship that you gave us, and congratulations for sharing these 50 years together and with all of those around you. Simple words for a complex since of love.