160 Years

I am one of the few people I know (besides my brothers) whose parents are both still living, still active and on the ball.  Today, my mom turns 80, following my dad who turned 80 in August.  They are quite a pair:  funny, cute, smart, brave, resilient, energetic, curious, and extraordinarily loving, especially with each other.  They’ve been married almost 57 years and they seem to be more crazy about each other with each passing year.  Everyone should be so lucky.

My folks are legendary for their hospitality, their humor, their antics, the retreats that they lead, their writing, their sermons, their story-telling, their pride in all their children – even as they have struggled to comprehend or communicate with any or all of us, their comedy routines, their intellectual openness and curiosity,  their playfulness, their unabashed political and theological liberalism, and their global community of friends and colleagues that crosses age groups, nationalities, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.  The list could go on, and I invite readers, nay, the ENTIRE Internet, to add suggestions in the comments section below of things my parents are legendary for.

I’m in the home stretch of planning a party for the folks in a couple of weeks to celebrate their combined 160 years of life.  When I asked them for a guest list, they sent me a spreadsheet of more than 400 email addresses, and many of those were for couples.  Honestly, I’m not even sure how many people we ended up inviting, and I’m sure that we missed some, so contact me if you want to know when and where the party is.  If everyone who has said that they’re coming shows up, I’m pretty sure we’ll have more than 200 people there, from all over the world, and many more who are very sad that they can’t make it.

The party is partly for mingling and eating and partly to roast my parents.  When you’ve lived for a combined 160 years, there are lots of bloopers that simply cannot be retold enough.  My mother, the extrovert and hospitality queen, is terrified of the roast, and would strongly prefer to be making ALL of the food that will be eaten.  My father, the introvert and goofball, has threatened to commandeer the microphone the minute ANYone says, well, ANYthing.  I suspect that it’s not that he wants to censor the content of the roast.  He has a voracious memory, and I’m sure he wants to make sure that all the best stories get told.  Or, maybe he knows he could roast the two of them better than anyone else.  Or maybe it’s both, and a whole lot more.

I left home at 18 to go to college and have lived most of my life more than 1000 miles away from my parents.  I don’t see them as often as I would like.  I love and admire them more than I can possibly describe.  They are a huge part of why I wander through this world feeling as lucky as I do, rose-colored glasses firmly in place, thinking in just about every difficult situation “well, it could be SO much WORSE!”  My love for music came from them and has always been nurtured by them.  My tendency to talk to myself, out loud, also came from them.  I am so much a blend of them that in one moment, I can be “doing a full-on Barbara” and in the next moment “pulling a total Dad.”  Our youngest has gotten very good at pointing these moments out by simply saying “Okay, Grandma” or “Yeah, right, Grandpa.”  My response:  “It could be SO much WORSE!”

Happy 80th birthday, Mom, and a belated happy 80th birthday (again) Dad.  Thanks for bringing my brothers and me into this world.  Thanks for telling us so many stories of who you have been and who you are still becoming.  Thanks for wanting us to be fully ourselves, even when it has been (or is still) painful or baffling to you.  Thanks for sticking together through seemingly unfathomable difficulty and darkness.  Thanks for continuing to grow and change and learn new things.  Thanks for delighting in each other more and more with each passing year.  Mostly, thanks for still being alive, in every possible meaning of that word.

Here’s a little something I made for you:

13 responses to “160 Years

  1. Well, that sure cracked me open. Beautiful piece of writing, Joy, and the song is killer.

    I think we should wrap the big party with that montage. So I hope most of the people there won’t have seen this already, even if that means that they’re ignoring your blog in favor of LOL Cats or whatever.


    • Jasper,
      I was hoping to create a new one for the party, something that used a broader range of photos. But, given how crazy busy I’m sure I’ll be once I hit the tarmac in Kansas City, I’m happy to use this as a fallback.

      What is LOL Cats? I might have to start ignoring my blog in favor of that! (:


  2. I feel so lucky to have them in my life. Thanks for being that link, Joy : )

  3. Beautiful Joy…your comments and the video. To say that they both have been significant in my life would be an understatement. I have been blessed by them, by you…of any people in the world, you all remind me we are part of a much larger family, everyday, all the time.

  4. I could read your musings all day and what a beautiful song. I am so blessed to have your parents in my life, for their wisdom and their humor. Looking forward to the roast!

  5. Add this to another chapter of “Sheesh, Those Howards!” You really know how to hug a heartstring, mon ami. Your words and images are lovely. What I liked best about the images is that your mom and dad so clearly love each other. The way they look at each other while they’re dancing is so tender and loving. We should all be so lucky. And, speaking of lucky–I’m sure they feel incredibly lucky to have kids as smart, talented, thoughtful, artistic, and poetic as you.

    • Renee, I’m thinking more and more that “Sheesh, Those Howards!” could be the title of a somewhat more twisted version of the “Family Circus” cartoon strip. Or maybe an illustrated novel. (; See you soon!

  6. Craig Crownover

    Thanks for the blog. My parents (Maureen and Orlin Crownover) were friends with your mom in Mobile, and later your dad. Both of them are now gone and you are truely lucky for who they are and that they are still kids. My mom said that your mom was so shy back then and she made Barbara a dress out of curtains (yuck). Doubt that that helped her social standing. Give them my love. Craig Crownover

    • Thanks for visiting, Craig! I love the story of your mom making my mom a dress out of curtains. I will certainly remember you to them, and perhaps they will find you here all on their own!

  7. I loved the blog and the video was just wonderful!
    I love your parents, they have a “way” about them that just makes you go “Hmm, I want that in my life”
    Wish I could have made the party, I’m sure with you and the rest of the family there it had to be a night to remember.

    Love from your cousin,
    Mary Frances

    • Mary Frances! How great to hear from you. The party is this coming Tuesday, and I’m planning to set up a website after the event that will have photos and stories posted there. That way, people who couldn’t make it will be able to get a flavor for the festivities. I’ll let you know when it’s up and running. So glad to be back in touch!


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