I wrote this piece a few years ago just before our family celebrated my in-laws 54th Wedding Anniversary. Today we celebrate their 57th Anniversary. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law’s memory and body has failed her, and now she is home-bound. There won’t be an anniversary outing this year, but there will be plenty of love. As you read, consider creating more of your own lasting family memories. They are priceless.
The Anniversary Dinner (2011)
My Father-In-Law called the other night. He doesn’t usually call to talk to me, but to talk to his son; possibly because of the slight language barrier. My father-in-law is Cuban and although he speaks fluent English, his thick accent makes it hard to understand him sometimes. I have very little in common with my in-laws, and we have butted heads on more than one occasion (politics, childrearing, working moms, etc.)
Monday night was different, however. Gerardo started out by complimenting my cooking (more than usual) and my home, and then he asked me to plan and prepare a very nice anniversary dinner at my home, to include all the children and grandchildren that can be in attendance. My in-laws will be married 54 years this Sunday. So yes, I’m going to jump up and plan something very nice. He asked for an anniversary cake, steaks and whatever special accompaniments I could come up with. He told me to spare no expense. (That’s a major request from a family that celebrates its thriftiness.)
But there was more to the request. There were the unspoken words. Gerardo fears this may be his last anniversary meal with the love of his life. My mother-in-law is just not well. Since their elaborate 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration, Haydee has suffered 2 major strokes and has other health issues. When I met my future mother-in-law (some 18+ years ago) she was still a vibrant woman, talked a mile a minute and could tell you every detail about her children and grandchildren. She cooked for huge family gatherings, able to feed a small army; a skill she honed because of the duties of being a Pastor’s wife, and raising 5 children. Now her memory is faltering and she can barely warm up prepared food items. He didn’t say it but my father-in-law mourns the changes in his wife and he only wishes to celebrate their life together, possibly this one last time. Heroes come in all sizes. In this case it’s a 79-year-old man planning a special outing for his very best friend – he wants it to be very special.
My children are fortunate; they have had the luxury of knowing both sets of grandparents. I don’t know how long that will last. My father was just diagnosed with cancer. So I’m going to make this evening special. Children and grandchildren are coming in from out of town to surprise Gerardo and Haydee. The meal is planned. I’m pulling out the good china & wine glasses (when was the last time I did that?), table cloths, linen napkins and the like. I’m grateful I planted flowers on the patio last weekend. Haydee will like that. I have croquet, horseshoes and a lawn chess set to ensure a fun family gathering. I’m charging the batteries to every camera I can find. I’ll probably pick up a few disposable cameras too. After all, it’s not about the food, it’s about family.
Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Garro, and thank you for the example.