Mom and Dad had been married for seventy years when he passed away on May 13, 2011. In honor of this season of love, I’d like to share excerpts from my two memoirs. The first selection is about the beginning of their love affair. It is from A Long and Winding Road: A Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos which was first published by Anaiah Press in 2014. The second excerpt is about their last days together and is from Mom’s Long Good-Bye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort which will be released by Anaiah shortly.
Mom and Dad met when they were 17 years old. They lived on adjoining farms in West Texas, went to the same church, went to the same school, and travelled in the same social circles. I love the story of the day their romance really began.
Even at the end of his life, Dad was a nice looking man, but he was quite a cutie in his teens. All the girls wanted to catch his attention, but he sat quietly on the school bus, wrapped in his own thoughts and shyness. They watched him, giggling and hoping he’d look their way.
“I’ll bet you won’t wink at him.”
“Even if I did, he wouldn’t wink back.”
But Mom, a drop-dead gorgeous brunette with deep brown eyes, saw what she wanted and went for it. “I will,” she said.
She did, and he winked back!
For the next two years, they courted. They sat next to each other in church, crossing their arms to hide their entwined hands, but fooling no one. They worked on adjoining rows in the peanut or cotton fields, and when one of the other girls tried to move in on her man, Mom simply picked up her hoe or cotton sack and stepped in front of the intruder, regaining her position by Dad’s side.
Dad’s older brother Dean became interested in Mom’s younger sister Fay. When one of the girls went to Granddaddy Hagan to ask his permission to go out with her beau, he asked, Is he the bug-eyed one or the squinch-eyed one? I think Dad was the squinch-eyed one.
The two couples often double dated, especially when the boys got an old Model T Ford. I’m not sure how they decided who got the rumble seat, but that was the prized position.
On December 21, 1940, in a double ceremony in the pastor’s parlor, both Hagan girls became Mrs. Robinson. Dad had nothing to offer his bride but a loving heart and a strong work ethic, but that was enough. They went through some hard times in their lives together, but Dad was dependable. Throughout their years together, and until age and infirmity took away his abilities, he still took care of his bride.
When Mom and Dad married in 1940, they didn’t have enough money for fancy jewelry. Mom had a set of rings that were so thin they wore completely through after twenty years or so. On their twenty-fifth anniversary, Dad presented his bride with a white gold band set with two rows of diamonds, and she presented him with a plain yellow gold band. I never saw him take it off. That band represented the defining reality of his life – his love for Mom. He loved her as Paul told the Ephesians to love their wives and would have given up his life for her. He told her every day how beautiful she was and how much he loved her, and he never tired of kissing her or holding her hand.
On May 7, 2011, the assisted living facility where he and Mom lived gave a tea in honor of Mother’s Day. Families were invited to come, and my brother Jim and his wife Jo Lynn were there. Mom and Dad enjoyed the food and the company, but they didn’t have much to say.
“Dad,” Jim said when they finished eating, “did you do anything exciting today?”
Dad thought a minute and then smiled. “I kissed your mother.”
That was the last intelligible thing either of us heard him say. He suffered a major stroke later that night.
His last few days were spent under hospice care in the room he shared with Mom. Their double bed was moved out to make room for a hospital bed for him and a twin bed for her. Her bed went unused as she climbed into bed with him each night. He slept most of the time, but when he occasionally woke up, he indicated with nods or shakes of his head that he was comfortable and was not in any pain. The day before he died, he spent most of the day on his side with his face toward the wall. I encouraged Mom to move up beside his bed so he could see her. He opened his eyes and his face lit up with the love that always shined in his eyes when he looked at her.
“Hi,” she said, patting his face and smiling back at him.
“Hi,” he mouthed back, even though no sound came out.
The love that began in the cotton fields of West Texas over seven decades before was still strong. It was stronger than the years, stronger than the physical infirmities, stronger than Alzheimer’s.
Linda began to write as a way of helping herself and others deal with the pain and frustration of family caregiving. Now that her parents are eternally
healed, she writes about country life, her feral Kitty, retirement, and her amazingly patient husband David. She also writes fiction.