My parent’s love story might not be designated as exactly that. I mean, they love one another - they’ve been in love in the past, but are they still in love? I’m not sure.
They’ve been married for 41 years, together for 44. My father is the only man my mother has ever been with, meeting him at age 16 at a park in Brooklyn. The pictures I’ve seen of my father as a teen resemble John Mellencamp Cougar. He had long, feathered brown hair, wore tight bell-bottom jeans, white tank tops, and drove an orange Trans Am with a black eagle painted on the hood. He was the “cool” kid and my mother was the complete opposite.
She attended Catholic school and wore uniform each day. Her mother curled her hair using Coca-Cola cans. She was young, innocent, and looking for an escape from my grandparent’s strict rules. Once she started dating my father, her image drastically changed. I recall one picture of my mother at a carnival. Her long brown hair was in low pigtails, trailing down her body. They tickled her exposed sides - she was wearing a yellow halter-top belly shirt and tight bell-bottom jeans. She was a knockout! She told me she used to iron her hair before there were straighteners and curling irons.
My parents group up in Brooklyn. In a part of the city that wasn’t overly dangerous at the time. Kids still rode their bikes to school but used uncuttable bike locks to secure it during class. My mother was allowed to hang out at the park, but only until dusk, while others, like my father, partied there all night long. Like I mentioned before, my parents were complete opposites and that never really changed. My mother’s outward appearance may have altered but that didn’t mean her heart, her personality, and who she was had altered any. She was still the sweet and honest girl she always was.
So, why did she marry my father? Why did she accept his proposal at age 19 when her life was just beginning? “I needed to get out of my house”, is what she tells me. My grandmother wasn’t the nicest woman and was extremely hard on my mother. She was difficult to deal with and my grandfather was a no-nonsense veteran. My mother craved freedom and thought she was finding that in my father.
Fast forward several years - my parents were married in 1976, my mother was pregnant with my brother at age 24. They moved to a nicer neighborhood in Queens. My father worked for the telephone company making great money. My mother stayed home with my brother - it was always her dream to be a mom. When she found out she was pregnant with me in early 1985, they decided to move to New Jersey. I was born in Queens but we settled in our Jersey home when I was just 2 weeks old. The next 20 years of my mother’s life were dedicated to raising my brother and I. My father worked 2 or 3 jobs at a time to provide for us. No one can deny his work ethic.
But something was lost in that span of time. The love, the appreciation, the connection that brought my parents together vanished over time. They grew apart. The odd part is, I don’t think either of them has changed much from the people they were in the 70’s. My mother is still a mild-mannered, somewhat reserved, and kind soul. My father is rough around the edges - a workhorse, concerned with looks and money. The saddest part of this whole equation is that my father tries to reminisce about times gone by and reflect on their memories, whereas my mother doesn’t have any. She saw my father as a way out, but inadvertently she was just moving from one prison sentence to another.
My mother will never divorce my father - they’re 62 and 65 respectively. But is she happy? No. Her job makes her happy. Her children and grandchildren make her happy. Those are the things she lives for. There’s not much left between my mother and father as far as a relationship goes. The saddest part might be that my father doesn’t see it.
But it just goes to show you that no one can save you. I wish my mother had a second chance at life. There’s so much she hasn’t experienced and likely never will. But if nothing else good comes of this, my parents created me and my brother and we produced 4 beautiful grandchildren. My mother’s life has taught me to live every moment, foster the bond between my husband and I, and to never settle. A true mother’s sacrifice.