Something just dawned on me the other day while doing something I do from time to time — I try to consider where my parents were in their lives at different ages in comparison to my own circumstances at the same age. For example, while I was still pumping gasoline near Twin Peaks in San Francisco in my twenties, not at all certain what I wanted to do with my life, my father was completing his apprenticeship in the Homestead Works of US Steel. He was already married and had one child shortly after that. My little sister was born at the same time my father had felt the call to the ministry and left the steel mill. He then enrolled in college (majoring in history) and simultaneously began to serve a church in a small town in Pennsylvania, all this in his twenties while I was still at the service station, and slowly restarting my college career. At the time he was doing that, and he and my mom were doing everything they needed to do for their young marriage while raising two kids, my father was figuring out how to succeed at college and meet the challenges of serving his first church. (NOTE–the fact that he was older and had a family when he was starting college made him a “non-traditional” student a term that didn’t come until years later and one that was applied to his son as well.)
While my parents were quickly getting started /moving on with their adult lives …higher education and career for my father, and for Mom, raising children and making a home while supporting Dad in everything (including all typing), ALL four of their parents were gone….deceased. During this exciting, albeit challenging, time they had no parents to whom to turn. My mother and father were completely on their own –no advice, no financial help, no parental role models, no port in a storm for them aside from what they could give each other and what the church and their faith provided.
Even in the four years after that, when my dad was on his own going to Manhattan to seminary, if you can imagine that, my mom was left alone with us during the week in rural New York when my sister and I started our schooling. She had no guidance, no support, no lifting up from parents’ expression of pride in them…in all they’d accomplished.
I compare my parents’ experience to my own life, and that of my wife and daughter and see how different it was. I had my parents ‘on our team’ up almost to the point of my retirement… so they saw everything I did in my career, the raising of our child all the way to graduation from college. Isabel’s situation was different–but her parents were also alive, although far away in Peru, which was inconvenient, but we COULD communicate things to them, and Isabel could talk to and visit them on occasion. And our daughter, has also had her own parents be able to see all that she’s accomplished, and to help her in any difficult times. Certainly my parents were an inspiration to me and I was always pleased by their frequent expression of pride of me. I hope that our daughter feels the same.
I wrote this mainly out of admiration for what my parents were able to accomplish over the years despite being on their own. I also wanted to recognize the very real blessing from which Isabel and I have benefited in this regard, as has our daughter.