The opinions, remembrances, reflections, and wisdom of the mother of five homeschooled children as the last one leaves the nest and the ranks of the grandchildren begin to grow.
Friday, July 22, 2011
THE FIRST THIRTY-THREE YEARS ARE THE HARDEST
On July 22, 1978, Father Robert Verstynen married John Danaher and Gina Moran at St. Bernadette Church in Rockford, Illinois. That was 33 yrs. ago and we haven’t looked back, mostly because we haven’t had the time to look back.
John and I had dated for about 18 months when we started discussing marriage. The one sticking point was my intention to become a Chicago Police officer. I had taken the civil service exam several years before and had recently completed interviews and a physical exam. I was scheduled to report to the Academy in the fall. John wasn’t so sure he wanted his wife to be a police officer. I wasn’t so sure we could survive on his salary as a Catholic school teacher and football coach. He compromised by agreeing to look for a job in industry.
It didn’t take very long for him to land a job with Union Carbide. Now it was my turn to compromise. We would have to move to Tarrytown, New York, in order for John to spend one year training to be a specialty chemical salesman. He needed to be in Tarrytown in six weeks. The dilemma was whether to marry quickly or after his year of training.
John’s proposition was to go ahead to New York to train and I would stay behind to plan the wedding. He reminded me that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I reminded him that from my perspective, “out of sight, out of mind.” He compromised.
So, we never formally engaged since I did not want him to spend money on a diamond ring. I didn’t see the point. We had limited resources and a wedding to put together in six weeks.
Right off the bat, my parents suggested the wedding be held in Rockford, home base of the Danaher clan. Since there were so many of them (John has nine siblings) and so few of us (I have two), it made more sense for the Moran clan to do the traveling. That meant John and I made all of the wedding arrangements on weekend trips to his parents’ home.
We paid for the cake, the flowers, and the photographer. We kept the guest list to immediate family and a couple of best friends. The wedding would take place at the Danaher’s parish church of St. Bernadette, with their favorite priest Fr. Bob Verstynen officiating. Fr. V also did some counseling with us on the weekends. The hall of choice was the Knights of Columbus and we ordered the prime rib dinner at $7.50 per plate with an open bar.
I wore my prom dress which was white and my sister, the maid of honor, wore one of her dresses from a dance she had attended. John and his brother, the best man, wore suits. There was no agony over the music for the ceremony. In 1978 you just went along with the program already established by the church’s musicians. It wasn’t particularly memorable, but it was stress free.
Finally, once dinner was over, the entertainment was provided by the Danaher siblings who never met a gathering for which they didn’t want to sing something. A good time was had by all and when my father paid the bill of $496.00, he looked at my sister and brother and said, “You two are getting married just like this.”
Our life together has taken us to New York, Texas, and back to Chicago. We have raised and homeschooled five blessed children and are now enjoying the role of grandparents in the lives of our four grandchildren. It has been a time consuming and expensive enterprise that has left little for those finer things in life, but John and I have never swayed from the understanding that our children are a blessing from the Lord and our treasures are in heaven. This makes deprivation of those so-called “finer things” barely noticeable.
Whenever John is engaged in a conversation about marriage and family he loves to make the joke (at my expense) that “the first 33 years are the hardest” and “I married her for better or for worse and I know those good days are coming.”
In truth there have been skirmishes, but never difficult times. It has been said that the best thing a man can do for his kids is love his wife. This is true. Conversely, the best thing a man can do for his wife is disciple their children and teach them to respect their mother. John is the best husband because he is the best father and believes every word God has given us in the Scriptures by which we must live. He took seriously St. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5 to “…love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Every night after work he spent the entire evening playing with the kids. After baths he would spend another hour reading or telling them stories, just like his grandfather Cassidy had done for him.
Our life has been blessed. Marriage and raising children is an endeavor that succeeds best on a rock solid foundation in Christ with a good dose of humor added on a daily basis. I hope the next thirty-three years are just as "hard" as the last.