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I Hold You in My Heart

I Hold You in My Heart

Today is a special day; one that holds very special memories.  Today, May 19, is the anniversary of my parents’ marriage.  If they were still alive, they would celebrate over 55 years of marriage, a rare accomplishment for couples today.  But they are not a couple of today.  Mom and dad’s hey days were the ‘40’s – the Big Band era.  Mom and dad were poor kids that lived through The Great Depression and knew what it meant to have very little.  They worked hard for what they had and respected each and every thing they owned. 

Dad worked at the refinery his entire career, first hiring in 1945 after World War II as an apprentice pipefitter.  From there, he progressed through various trades – firefighter, maintenance, long wharf, blending and shipping, and finally became the Maintenance Supervisor of the Blending and Shipping Group.  His entire career spanned 40 years from 1945 to 1985 – something you really don’t see much of any more because employees today change jobs every three to five years and don’t have the loyalty that people like my father did.  

Mom held different jobs, including one in the Law department for a brief time after she lost her first husband to brain cancer.  The Law Department job was a bridge to help her after her husband’s death and ironically, she met my father there.  It’s no coincidence that I also work for the same company today and I’m very proud of the heritage and to be a “second-generation employee.”  After my parents were married, they decided after a while that they wanted a child of their own, but did not want to go through a pregnancy.  They adopted me on Valentine’s Day in 1966.  My father adopted my sister (my mom’s birth daughter) on that day as well.  With a 14-month old baby at home, my mother stayed at home to care for me, but she still worked from home as a professional seamstress, making beautiful 3-piece suits, dresses, slacks, blouses, and jackets for her clients.  She created “plastiques” to custom-fit the clothes to her clients’ individual body shapes – a pioneer in making custom patterns.   Each client mom had would always bring extra fabric for me so that I could have an outfit.  This worked wonderfully because I was only a size three toddler at the time of kindergarten, so it was impossible to go to a store and purchase clothing for me that would fit appropriately.  I was very fortunate to have a mother that could sew and customize my clothes to fit me and additionally, to have such caring friends and clients that they would bring extra fabric to ensure that I received an outfit as well.

Mom and dad also worked hard at home to ensure the household was run in an orderly, yet very loving fashion.  When the whistle blew at the refinery, we knew dad would be home within 15 minutes and dinner was always ready to be placed on the table when he got home.  On weekends, when time was more lax, dad would typically make a salad and help to set the table while mom cooked a main course.  We always went to fancy restaurants on Friday nights, though.  Mom also had her standing hair appointments on Friday mornings.  In the summertime when I was out of school, we would go to mom’s hairdresser, who was also a good friend of ours and stay for a couple of hours while mom got her hair done – it was longer if she was having her hair dyed or permed.  Our friend had two daughters and we would watch shows like The Brady Bunch, Wheel of Fortune (long before Vanna White reigned over the show), or the $10,000 Pyramid.  We had the best time during those summer Fridays.  Once dad returned home on Friday afternoons, we would be ready and head to dinner with a couple that were best friends with my parents – this friendship lasted over 35 years and mom and dad went to dinner every Friday night with this couple, toggling between Napa and the Bay Area.  I went along for many years until I turned 18, at which time I usually had my own things going on and mom and dad, by that time, really wanted time to themselves to enjoy with their long-time friends.

Mom and dad were also very faithful to the church and were members there for well over 50 years.  I have the same pew that I used to sit on when I was growing up – the same pew where my dad would help me to understand the hymns and would teach me the melodies – the same pew where my mom would help me to follow along and understand the books of the Bible and how to find them and also help me to understand the verses and what they meant.  When I sit in their pew, now my pew, I am flooded with memories of me as a very little girl sitting with my parents and learning all there was to learn.

As I reflect on these memories – the long-term friendships, the long-term commitment to jobs, mom and dad’s marriage which truly was “till death do us part,” and above all, their commitment to God and the church, I see these behaviors and commitments alive in my life.  These are the parts of my parents that I carry with me – the things I carry in my heart every day.  Of course, I also carry their warm smiles, their encouraging words, their hugs, and their deep and genuine love and caring for me, my daughters, and my sister and her family. 

I now have the house where I grew up – mom and dad’s house, now my house.  I look at the layout of the house and I see earlier days when mom and dad would cook in the kitchen, sit at the dinner table for a meal, or sit in their favorite recliners to watch a television show.  I see the back yard with its fully mature fruit trees and flowering plants and think of my father, every spare minute of his time spent in the garden, composting and growing organic vegetables, pulling weeds, or salting snails.  I remember dad vividly sitting in the back yard on his bench, stripping copper wire to recycle or working with his tools.  In the garage, I remember all the times that my father would change the oil in my cars, especially the times that I pulled my two-seater RX7 into the garage, gearing up the engine to steer it into the garage which is set on a steep grade.  Pop would jack up the car, but still it was difficult for him to get under the car because it sat extremely low and my father was a big man.  He still did it though – every 2,000 miles without fail because he realized the importance of keeping clean oil in your car because it would prolong the life of the engine.   Each time I walk up the front steps to the house, I take in the smells of jasmine, orange, and rose, all plants or trees that are blooming wildly and remind me of earlier days.  There are times that I can even hear my parents’ voices and feel their presence and it is those times that I know I am not alone.  I know they are watching over me and ensuring that I am safe and all is well.

I look to the future as well and see many of the things that my parents instilled in me are very prevalent in my life.  I carry their teachings and their sentiments with me every day and I am learning to not look back, but to press forward.  I reflect, especially on significant days and I still have tears sometimes when I think of those times and those very important lessons from my parents, but I remind myself that mom and dad would want for me to press forward and explore the world, armed with all of their teachings and still wrapped with their caring hugs and well wishes.

On this special day, my parents’ special day, I want them to know that all of their teachings were worthwhile – they all have stuck with me and mean something to me – probably now more than ever.  Mom and dad, you were an inspiration and a guiding light, even during the times I failed to see it.  I am thankful that I began to see it while you were still here with me, to give you hope that I was on the right path.  Now that you are no longer here on this earth, I see it even more vividly – your teachings and your gentle encouragement (well, maybe a swift kick in the tush sometimes, pop), are very much alive and are constant reminders – you are my compass – you are my light – you are a constant inspiration and a comfort to me all rolled up into one.  I want you to know that I am finally on the right path – finally.   Though I miss you both dearly and the ache of losing you never goes away, I am elated that you chose me as your daughter.   Had you not, my life would have been very different and definitely not as richly blessed.

I love you mom and dad – and may you peek through heaven’s window from time to time and see the impact you have made in my life.

~~~JRS