January 26

113 years ago today, my great grandparents Joseph James Reginald Rowse and Jetta Butterfield married.

88 years ago today, my Gramps, Jack Rowse, married my Nana, Doris Wangsgaard.

And 50 years ago today, my dad and mom got married.

For the few guys who broached the topic of marriage with me, the one non-negotiable was a January 26 wedding date. I didn’t care if it was a Wednesday, that was the date I wanted. Because, you know…

I remember my Nana and Gramps’ 50th anniversary—we drove from Omaha to Phoenix for a huge reception, and as long as we were that far west, I am pretty sure we snuck in a trip to Disneyland too. 

When the coronavirus pandemic started in March 2020, I’m not sure any of my siblings imagined that we wouldn’t be able to do some kind of equal celebration for my parents’ 50th. Surely things would be back to normal in time for us to plan a reception for them.

Oh, the hubris of the young.

But here we are, coming off a surge from the latest variant of a virus that is definitely showing the world who’s boss, and tomorrow (and the weekend) will come and go without much fanfare about my parents’ marriage.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom that my parents have been married for 50 years, because I sure don’t feel old enough to have parents who’ve been married for 50 years. I can’t imagine every day was a picnic, between moving all over the U.S. for the first 25 years, raising two fairly difficult children (at least the two Angel Children made up for it), cancer, demanding jobs and church responsibilities, and just the demands of everyday life. 

For good measure, toss in a broken neck and spinal cord injury. You know, just to keep things interesting.

My parents’ marriage taught me the importance of showing up for people you love. Showing up when tired, when sick, when irritated, when happy, when fulfilled. They taught me about the importance of the small details that lead to a longer game, and how to “enjoy the journey.”

I wish we could throw them a huge party, or at the very least take them to dinner tonight. But I’m sure they know, as a couple that have been married for 50 years, that most things can actually wait. We’ll grab dinner soon. My treat.

Happy Anniversary, mom and dad. I love you both.

Sliced Bread Apology

Prompt: What do you think is actually the best thing since sliced bread?

Yesterday, I let the whole day go without talking to my parents. This is not unusual–I don’t talk to them every day. But yesterday was their wedding anniversary, and I remember thinking to myself, as I hauled broadcasting gear to the North Gym to live stream a wrestling match, “I have to call mom and dad on the way home. Don’t forget.”

And then I got distracted by the many things preoccupying my mind, and I forgot.

It wasn’t a significant anniversary–the next big one happens in six years–but I still feel badly that I didn’t even manage a measly text message to mark the occasion.

So instead, a blog post about how my parents’ marriage is the best thing since sliced bread…

I never saw them fight. I’m sure they had disagreements, and probably even fought. But they kept it away from the kids, on the (I’m assuming) rare occasions fights happened.

They still hold hands. Throughout my life, people I barely know, upon learning I am Dale and Carolyn’s daughter, will tell me how adorable my parents are. Yep. They are.

They like being together, but they also respect each others’ need to be an individual. When dad goes hunting, mom doesn’t get upset (maybe she did when we were little, but remember: no fights in front of the kids), and I think she actually likes the alone time. Mom basically has commandeered the basement with her crafting arsenal, but I’ve never heard my dad complain about it. Tease? Yes. We all tease her about it. But I don’t see or hear complaining. They really do respect each other.

So, mom and dad, I’m sorry I missed your anniversary. I hope this makes up for it.

The Mom and Dad Project.

Some background:

Over a decade ago, a dear friend of mine was in the process of transcribing audio of her dad telling his life story. I remember thinking, “That’s a great idea. I should do that.” And then I jaunted off to grad school for two years and when I came back, so many other things demanded my time.

Last year, my Aunt Sarah asked me to help with edits on a book she was compiling that told the story of my Nana and Gramps. My Gramps died in 1989, Nana in 1998, so she had spent hours cobbling together stories of their lives–mostly from secondary sources.

In November 2015, StoryCorps sponsored The Great Thanksgiving Listen, in which they encouraged high school students to talk to the older members of their families and record their stories. I offered my journalism students extra credit if they participated–they had to select questions, conduct an interview, and then upload the interview. When I told my newspaper staff about the opportunity, I shared with them how I wish I had asked my grandparents more questions about their lives.

On to present day, inspired by the background information:

This year for Christmas, I gave my parents each a notebook with 40 prompts. For at least 40 weeks, they will jot down important remembrances based on the prompts. I will show up to their house and record them talking about the prompt (the journalist in me gets to ask follow up questions when needed) and my nieces will help with the transcribing.

By the end of the year, I’ll have a notebook from mom, a notebook from dad, audio recordings, and transcriptions. All primary sourced, ready to be compiled into a narrative.

I didn’t want to rely on my and my siblings’ memories to tell the stories of my parents. I want them to tell their stories. And rather than hoping they’d get around to it eventually, I’m forcing their hand.

I hope they don’t mind.