This week’s topic of the 52 Ancestors Challenge is Love, and there is no one in my family tree that I can think of who have demonstrated love more so than my parents. Married for 46 years, they were the quintessential high school sweetheart couple who began dating as 15-year old sophomores; Dad was an athlete who played football and swam, and Mom was a cheerleader. In 1969, they graduated high school together. My mother headed off to nursing school at the Burbank School of Nursing in Fitchburg, MA, while my father headed off to Castleton State College in Castleton, VT, to pursue a double major in chemistry & math and a minor in French.
They married on September 4, 1971, in their hometown of Windsor, VT. My mother began working as a nurse at a local hospital while my father worked as an engineer at a local factory. Their first child, a son, was born on December 5, 1972. My brother was a very precocious child who was reading at the age of 18 months and was known for his massive temper tantrums. My parents were dealing with a highly gifted child who didn’t have much support or guidance for what to do with such a gifted child in the public school system, but they were willing to do whatever they could. My brother was such a handful that my mother often told me how she didn’t want any more children after my brother because of how much of a handful he was.
Fortunately, they did decide to have another child in 1977–me. Apparently, I was quite the easy baby compared to my brother, and it sounds like that was a much-needed blessing in their house at that time. Finances were tight for the two of them, let alone as a family of four now. We lived in a single-wide mobile home during the first few years of my life before my parents purchased their first home, a small cape-cod style home for $25,000. During that time my father was laid off from his job as an engineer and took a job teaching high school science and math. My mother was working as a nurse at the V.A. Hospital. Unfortunately, the salary of a teacher wasn’t enough to help my father provide for his family. He left teaching for the United States Postal Service which immediately doubled his salary.
In 1987, my parents sold the house and we moved to the next town to the north where they built a new house. My father continued working for the post office for the next 20 years, and my mother continued her career as a nurse at the V.A. Hospital. They continued raising my brother and me, carting us all over the country helping us fulfill our dreams. They loved their children and all the pets that came and went, but most of all, they loved each other. They loved vacationing together on Marco Island, FL.
They grieved the loss of two of their beloved Bernese Mountain Dogs in just two months’ time (In May and June), but nothing would prepare them for what happened within days of losing their second dog. My mother was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, and it had already spread to her bones, pancreas, and liver. As my mother put it, “I was fine one day and then I wasn’t.”
The cancer was very advanced, and my mother lasted only a few weeks after diagnosis until she passed on July 28, 2018. The image of my father holding my dying mother’s hand at her bedside is one that I will never forget. This past September should have been their 47th wedding anniversary, and they would have been together a total of 50 years. My mother would have turned 67 years old in December. Her death shattered our family, and we are still picking up the pieces just six months later.