Monday, May 22, 2017

For my parents on what would have been their 62nd anniversary

Hanford and Bea, circa 2007

Today would have been my parents 62nd wedding anniversary.

They married later in life than their peers: in 1955, they were both over 30, my mother considered an 'old maid' for her generation.

It wasn't until the end of my father's life that he opened up to me about his biggest regret: that he felt he was never able to make my mother happy. There was a core of sadness in her that nothing could fill. Not financial security, not material things, not experiences, and not even what she claimed to be her heart's desire: a second child.

My mother was unable to successfully carry a child to term after my older sister was born. After years of miscarriages, they turned to adoption, which in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a difficult and often secretive enterprise. They had been turned down by many agencies for being too old to be adoptive parents. (Remember, this was a very different time.)

My father told me the day he realized he couldn't make my mother happy was the day he flew home from California after they adopted me as a 5 day old infant: Even that didn't change her.

She died several years before my father did, after years of encroaching dementia. He was her main caregiver through that time and kept her safe in their home with the same devotion he applied to trying to make her happy their whole lives.

In a series of very frank discussions my father and I had in his last months, I hope I was able to show him that no one can make another person happy. That he had not failed as a partner. That she did love him and that her inability to be happy was a deep wound she must have carried her whole life.

I hope he was able to forgive himself for not being able to do the impossible.

I think of them both today, with deep gratitude for their love and support as well as a bittersweet sorrow for the sadness they both carried.


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