Thursday, April 28, 2005

70 Years of Marriage

Last week we helped my parents celebrate 70 years of marriage. Wow. 70 years.

It wasn’t like all the other times we celebrated. This year it was different.

Last October, my mother fell and broke her hip. She ended up in a rehab center in West Des Moines, Iowa. A few weeks later, my dad was moved to USA healthcare Center in Urbandale, Iowa. He has Alzheimer’s. She suffers from a form of dementia.

The red tap slowing the process of putting them in the same facility was unbelievable. Although there was an empty bed in dad’s room that his center was holding for mom, nothing was happening to expedite the process. Finally, after several months of effort, my brothers contacted the local newspaper and told them the story. Staff writer, Tom Alex, wrote a report that touched the hearts of so many Iowans that state Senator Charles Grassley stepped up. Within the space of about 30 minutes, the “red tape” was unraveled and my parents were given the go ahead to be in the same care center.

Even a local TV news story was videoed and run on the 10pm news.

The news article and TV coverage alerted people who had known my parents for many years and they came to visit. The family had a party with cake and ice cream and lots of noise in one of the social rooms at the care center. As they sat side-by-side in their wheel chairs, mom held dad’s hand and sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” I know we wore them out because dad fell asleep while she sang it. Maybe he thought it was a lullaby.

Next day a fancy restaurant where one of the grandchildren works as a chef gave them a free meal. Then supper was free at Ryan’s. Ryan’s knows them from their many years of eating there on Sunday after church. So the “specials” signboard gave them a greeting, “Happy 70th Anniversary Vera Mae and Harry Bougher” (to which dad said, “that’s nice.”) and then in the party room there was a dozen red roses (mom really liked that) and the baker brought in a yummy valentine-shaped cake he had made and decorated for them. The manager and the baker had us take photos of them with the folks.

Someone pulled out a video camera as we shared some warm and some crazy events of the past while we fed ourselves. Twenty-five members of the family were there that night. If you know the Boughers, you know we were not quiet.

When we asked mom to sing again, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” was at the top of the list. I went and knelt between them as she sang (kind of helping her remember the words) and asked if the two of them would sing one of their old duets that I grew up hearing them sing. Dad hasn’t sung for many years now as he really has little voice left. But as mom began, he joined in and although in a very soft voice, he didn’t miss a beat.

I cried.

And to top it off, she sang the song that she was singing when dad first laid eyes on her and announced to his pal “I want a date with her. I think I’d like to marry her.” She was singing in a Kathryn Kuhlman meeting at the “Old Princess Theater” in downtown Des Moines, “Homesick for Heaven.”

This time he didn’t go to sleep as she sang. He just smiled at her.

They were worn out when the brothers took them home. Home to the care center where they can eat together and hold hands whenever they want.

Seventy years. He’s 90, she’s 87.

They have served God, raised us four kids, been blessed with 13 grands and 28 greats. They ministered in song in church, on street corners, at old folks homes, at weddings and funerals. They helped old people and blessed needy folks. I can’t tell you how many people they have led to the Lord. They have lived Godly lives.

They are true examples of servants of the King.

And I thank God for my awesome parents.