Today would have been my parents 60th wedding anniversary. They were married March 17, 1951 at the Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey. The minister was the Reverend Morgan P. Noyes. I recently found a picture of Mr. Noyes. The picture, taken June 22, 1938, is of a group of people just awarded honorary degrees by Yale University. Remarkably enough, the group includes writer Thomas Mann and Walt Disney. Sadly, Mr. Noyes’s face is blocked by the Reverend Endicott Peabody in the first row.
There is nothing unique or special in my saying that I miss both my parents very much. Their marriage was my father’s first and my mother’s second. Her first husband had been an RAF pilot in World War II. To her dying day my mother had special place in her heart for England and the English, for good reason. She lived in London while England endured the savagery of the London blitz, a 57-day bombing campaign ordered by Hitler to demoralize the British which began on the afternoon of September 7, 1940. The campaign did anything but demoralize the British, though the damage and carnage was beyond brutal.
My father served in the 20th Armored Division in the war, one of three U.S. divisions, the others being the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions, credited with liberating the Dachau Concentration Camp, something my father never mentioned. Like many veterans, my father did not speak about his war experiences. Once when I was around six or seven, we were watching a movie together, scene was of a soldier crawling among the rubble after a bombing trying to find a woman he feared was killed in the attack. I looked over at my father and tears were streaming down his face. I threw my arms around him. He hugged me back and asked me not to tell my mother. I never did.
They met after the war. He was teaching English Literature in Columbia University and she was one of his students. She was 10 years his junior. While time and distance has helped me understand what romance there was between them did not last, they were good friends and shared a love of music, dance, museums and books; all loves they successfully passed on to me. They were also very civil rights oriented. Our family’s minister marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and while my mother worked to free herself of slivers of racism, something she readily admitted to and admitted were things she needed to get free of, my father didn’t have a racist or bigoted molecule in his makeup.
My father died way too soon in 1969. He was 55 and I was 15. My other ended her own life at age 68 in 1992. No matter how or when they left the world, there is no easy way to lose a parent. And while I do not know what if anything comes after this life, I do know that when all is said and done, both my parents have made my life a better place to me.
Happy Anniversary, Mommy and Daddy.