55 Years That Began in Hawaii

It was my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary yesterday. They were married in 1952 in Hawaii when my dad was stationed at Barbers Point Naval Base on the island of Oahu. They’d grown up in the same town, dated in high school, broke up for a spell, and then Dad must have missed Mom a whole lot because he wrote to her and asked her to marry him. She hadn’t seen him in 18 months, but she must have missed him, too, because she got on a plane and flew to Hawaii.

Here’s one of my favorite stories from my dad’s memoirs:

“Our deal was if she’d pay for a train ticket to LA, I’d buy the plane ticket to Honolulu. She went for my request and we both began our plans and aimed for October. I saved every spare nickel, and sold my neat 35mm Kodak camera with all the extra lenses and anything else I didn’t need. She was doing the same as she worked in Luverne (MN) at this time. I promised her if after 18 months of being apart she didn’t want to go through with this (when she got to Hawaii), I’d fly her home.

“Mom arrived on a Pan Am stratocruiser on Sunday, October 12. It was great to see her. I showed her where we would live, went to the base to show her off to my friends, and finally to the Broderick’s who had offered to have her stay the week before the wedding.

“We set out Monday after my work to get the marriage license. Mom already had a blood test back home as was required in Hawaii. We went to the license place and the old witch manning the place wouldn’t approve a blood test from Minnesota. So we left to find the nearest doctor. We happened on a small ‘Doctor’ sign and went in. The nurse was from St. Paul (MN) and so was the doctor. He transferred the blood test to a Hawaiian-approved form at no charge. We went back to the old witch within an hour and she couldn’t believe it, but she had to issue the license.”

My mom likes to say they “didn’t have the pot or the window.” They made due with Dad’s meager pay and by collecting pop bottles and bringing them to the store for the few-cents refund on each. They lived in rugged base housing crawling with large tropical bugs, but the ocean was their backyard and everything about the islands was still untainted by tourism. They had their first baby in Hawaii, my brother Marty, born six weeks premature. Dad could hold Marty in one hand. No wonder they talk about those two years more than any other of their married years.

The start of their married life was so different than most couples and I wonder if more marriages would survive if the first few years were lived away from everything familiar.

Mom was just 20 years old, Dad was 21. The stories they tell of their two years in Hawaii are legend in our family, and I don’t think there’s been a time in their lives since that compares. Not that they haven’t enjoyed the other 53 years together. But it was in Hawaii where they had to get to know each other without the comforts of friends and family back home.

I want to be married to Larry for 55 years. Of course I’d have to live to be 90 and he 106, but that’s doable, right? I want to know what it’s like to be with someone forever, to know them inside and out, to wake up on the morning of our anniversary knowing I’m loved by and loving the same man I loved 55 years ago. Mom says she still learns new things about Dad, things about his childhood or career that she never knew, opinions he holds that she wasn’t aware of. Larry and I have those same kinds of unfoldings, but we’re still pretty new at this marriage thing. Nine years versus 55 is but a fleeting moment, hardly a start.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. Your love is as true now as it was in Hawaii. Thank you for sharing your stories because it is through your stories that I know you both as more than parents.

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