Sunday, June 18, 2006

Would I do it all again?

Today is not just Father’s Day, it is also my parent’s 51st anniversary. Instead of a big, loud Father’s Day affair replete with kids, noisy grandkids and noisier great-grandkids, they instead chose to celebrate with a quiet dinner at an elegant restaurant and only each other for company. After 51 years, they’re still in love.

Hah, you say. In this era? Impossible.

Think again.

This past Friday evening, I called my parents to make arrangements to drop some things off at their house. They were in the middle of making dinner and, as I had no particular plans, they invited me to join them. My mother had set a lovely table, as she does every evening, with candlelight, china and Waterford crystal--all for a simple supper of hamburgers and French fries.

After our meal, as we were waiting for coffee to brew, Mom plopped a large, gold-ribboned gift bag down in front of Dad and, with a coy little smile, announced that, since they were driving to Sedona to pick up the keys for their new vacation condo tomorrow, Dad had to open his Father’s Day present right now.

She hovered over him, wringing her hands with excitement, as he pulled a bright red toolbox out of the gift bag. Forgetting entirely that I was there, they whispered and smiled and cooed over each high-tech gadget and shiny tool as my Dad dug deeper and deeper into his new toolbox. He smiled at her, she smiled at him, they looked in each other’s eyes and cooed some more.

This was a side of my parents’ married life I’d rarely glimpsed: here were my stoic dad and my practical mom, both now in their 70s, acting like 14-year-olds giggling over their first kiss.

Mom remembered the coffee and disappeared into the kitchen, just as Dad gasped as he realized he hadn’t opened her card.

He looked at me with the puppy-dog eyes of a boy who knows he’s about to get into trouble, and I said, “Quick, open it before she gets back!”

As he read it, I watched his face visibly soften and his eyes grow full with wetness.

“This is really sweet, would you like to read it?” he said, barely able to speak, and handed me the card.

The cover of the card said: “Father’s Day: If I had it to do all over again, would I?”

The lengthy poem inside continued the question: “Would I go through the hurts and the laughs, the crying and the happiness…,” and so on. I think it ended with something like “…absolutely, I would,” but I can’t be sure; by the time I reached the end, my eyes, too, were blurry with tears.

My own romantic life has been radically different from my parents. At some critical point in our relationship, my son’s father, Dad-Who-Would-Be-Outlaw, and I realized that we were not meant to live together, much less be married, begging a far more somber version of the question, “Would I do it all again.”

Would I go through the years of fun before our son was born, the exhilarating joy of childbirth, the agony of splitting up, watching Dad roll around on the living room floor with his six-month-old son like a couple of puppies at play, the first day of kindergarten when our Pumpkin got on the bus and never looked back and Dad-Who-Would-Be-Outlaw tenderly put his arm around me and walked me home while I cried, the torturous nights of second-grade homework, the years when neither of us could agree on ANYthing, the day we stood together at the airport and watched our son swagger off an airplane like a 9-year-old adventure hero after spending two weeks backpacking through the Swiss Alps with his grandfather, the lonely summer weeks when the Teenager-Formerly-Known-As-Pumpkin went away for summer camp for the first time, the bullying of junior high, the first agonizing days of high school, the sleepless nights after the Teenager first got his driver’s license, his second place finish at a triathlon, his debut as stage manager over a $10,000 set design for his high school musical, the mad dash to the hospital when he had a concussion, the California college tour when we both chewed our tongues near through as we watched the Teenager interview with admissions counselors, the day this week when our son proudly came home to announce he’d received a 4.8 GPA for this past semester….

Would I do it all again?

In a heartbeat.

Thank you, Dad-Who-Would-Be-Outlaw, for 17 of the very best years of my life.


Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

What a poignant story...I don't know your life. Are you still with Dad-Who-Would-Be-Outlaw?

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Except for a few foolish moments when we toyed with the idea of getting back together, we've been apart for most of those 17 years. I hope our story doesn't sound sad, it's not; it's just very different than the classic story of my parents. We're very close in an odd sort of way. You could say we're the nuclear family of the 21st century - single and single-mindedly devoted to the Teenager. He is a wonderful person and the best possible dad for my son. Poignant though it may sound, would I do it all again? You betcha.

ivan said...

Your picture so reminds me of someone in the past, though she still writes, twenty-four years later.
She too was separated from somebody; we didn't take the relationship seriously, probably not seriously enough.
In any event, I really enjoyed the vignette of your parents and a picture of some of your life.
I know where a piece like this could be sold in Canada, but then I'm having problems with that publisher myself these days.

There's got to be room in the weekend Sun-Times somewhere for an honest and charming reflection like the one you've set down. Enjoyed reading it.

Adam Hurtubise said...


Amazing story, Elizabeth.


Anonymous said...

I always love your posts....This is no exception.

Sandra Ruttan said...

That's a beautiful story. Wow, how wonderful.

Jess Riley said...

Elizabeth, this was such a moving post! Your parents sounds amazing, and your own! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Elizabeth Krecker said...

You are all so kind. Thank you Ivan for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth is a gem and true inspiration to life. Her comments run true and her memories only embelished with clarity and a touch of ironic perspective. She has brought Teenager and Dad more life than any other. While she has a piece of my heart forever; this pass through life was meant to be shared on different ends of the same shelf. I would journey with Elizabeth anytime.

Eatapeach said...

You are a class act, E. A very talented class act at that.

Shesawriter said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Just wanted to stop by to say hi! Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope to see you again. Your "place" looks nice. :-)


Ballpoint Wren said...

Aw, Elizabeth and Dad WWBO... you sound like super parents who put your kid first despite marital troubles. It's kind of romantic and sad and uplifting, all at the same time!

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Peach, you're so kind!

Shesa, thanks for stopping by!

Bonnie, please don't be sad. It's really a happy story. I wouldn't change a thing.

Dad, I'm honored by your thoughts.

Plantation said...

Not sure what happened to my comment; I probably typed in the wrong code below. What I said was that you had classy parents who raised a classy daughter.

When I get back to the states, I'm hopping a plane to Phoenix to visit Andy. We'll be staying at Squaw Peak. If you'd like to meet Andy and I let me know. Email me, OK?

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Thanks for stopping by, G!

Plant, look forward to seeing you and Andy in Phoenix. Should be nice and toasty by mid-July! Too bad you can't make it to Thrillerfest. Watching a few hundred thriller writers sweat out an Arizona summer in a resort filled with ghosts and skeletons ought to be highly entertaining! Have fun in Europe!