Yesterday was the 63rd anniversary of my parent’s marriage. It was a marriage worthy of emulation, but one few today would predict could survive. Dad was 22 and Mom was 16 when they got married. The correct word is “eloped,” but you only got to use that word once in front of Mom. “We did not elope; bad girls eloped.” Let’s see, her mother sent her to town to meet the boy she wanted her to marry. My dad saw her in town, arranged a private meeting (working with her aunt), gave the ultimatum “today or never,” she met the other guy and brushed him off, Dad got the license and they met that afternoon at the Justice of the Peace’s house. What would you call it?
All she had were the clothes on her back. She couldn’t go home. Her mother hated my Dad. He had a reputation for drinking, fighting, and womanizing. Now, my Grandmother was Church of God, but she was also a Harris by birth, and a woman of a certain age by nature and nature was in its full fury. Somehow “the change” seems an innocuous euphemism for menopause. I suggest something with a war theme, perhaps “blitzkrieg” or "proto-Armageddon."
A few weeks earlier Grandma had heard a rumor Mom and Dad were going to meet in the woods and run off together. She sent my mother off with one of my uncles so that she couldn’t meet Dad. The story, well known in the community, continued with my Grandmother taking my Grandfather’s rifle and hiding out waiting on my father’s arrival to shoot him. When he arrived at the designated rendezvous point one of my mother’s female cousins was with him. Grandma didn’t realize she was there to serve as witness at the wedding and assumed she and Dad were there for amorous reasons.
Although she was just a kid, Mom was an equal match for Dad. They lived in a culture all too familiar with violence, especially domestic violence. One of Dad’s brothers and his wife would party too hard and get physically confrontational with each other. After witnessing this, Mom let Dad know she would not tolerate it. “If you ever get drunk and lay a hand on me you will go to sleep. And I will sew you up in the sheets, take a broom handle and beat you within an inch of your life. And you know I will do it.” I doubt Mom’s threat restrained him, but he knew she meant it and he never touched her in anger.
May 17, 2010