An Unlikely Love Story

I always thought that my childhood best friend, Martha, had perfect parents. Her dad always held the car door open for her mother. Her mother delighted in making her husband’s favorite dishes. They never interrupted each other, did everything together and rarely had spats. All in all, they were like a sitcom couple come to life. Being invited to have dinner at Martha’s house was like being invited to eat with Bob and Carol Brady; peaceful, predictable and pleasant.
In other words, Martha’s parents were absolutely nothing like my parents, Vera and Ray.
With some couples it’s easy to see why they were drawn to each other. Perhaps they have the same sense of humor or they both enjoy deer hunting or maybe they share a mutual dislike for liver. I often wondered just what it was that my parents ever saw in each other.
My mom was someone who loathed venturing beyond her living room and who was happiest perched on a high stool in the kitchen, sipping tea, smoking Salems and watching her 13 inch black and white television. My dad was her polar opposite. Dad smoked Camels, would have liked to have spent all of his waking hours either on a sailboat or in a restaurant, not going home until well after the witching hour.
How did those two ever decide to get married? Even more mind boggling, how did they manage to stay married for 57 years?
I would have to search my memory long and hard to come up with any topic that my parents agreed on and I honestly don’t think that I could find one. Then again, it’s highly possible that due to a contrary streak that they both possessed even if Vera did agree with Ray or vice versa, neither of them would ever had admitted it. Actually, I think they delighted in arguing with each other since they did it at least seven times every day of their marriage, starting over morning coffee and winding down around the 10 o’clock news. Needless to say, Valentine’s Day with Vera and Ray was almost always on the bizarre side.
My dad loved Valentine’s Day and for some unfathomable reason he seemed to enjoy buying my mother gifts even though he knew the odds were excellent that she wasn’t going to like anything he gave her. Nevertheless, every February 14 he arrived at home with another love token tucked under his arm and a smile on his face. Many years he bought chocolates but never normal chocolates such as Russell Stover’s or Hershey’s Kisses. Instead he found a brand made, I believe, by a company called Picasso that tasted exactly like chocolate scented plastic. My mother invariably took one bite before gagging dramatically and then throwing the rest of the box in the garbage. Another Valentine’s Day, Dad presented Mom with a pewter plate that had the inscription “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou” etched onto its rim. After eyeing the inscription suspiciously, my mother put the plate on a high shelf and said somewhat reproachfully, “Now, Raymond, you know I don’t drink wine from a jug!” She drank it from any other kind of a container but, having her standards, definitely not from a jug.
The only Valentine’s Day that I can recall where both of my parents were completely happy was the one when Mom took Dad to a jewelry store and picked out exactly what she wanted him to give her: a ring with a price tag that far eclipsed a thousand boxes of Picasso chocolates. Although his eyes bulged and his wallet hurt, Dad manned up and bought his Valentine the ring. And for the rest of that day, at least, there were no more squabbles under their roof.
I saw Martha recently and she told me how much she always enjoyed having dinner at my house when we were growing up.
“Your parents taught me what life was really like,” she said somewhat wistfully. “Eating dinner at your house was like an early reality show.”
Do I really need to point out that Martha, the product of a sitcom childhood, is now a successful businesswoman living in an all paid off mini-mansion while I, someone who came from a reality show background, still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and will have my house paid off approximately ten years after I’m dead?
No wonder why I’m a proponent of not only good chocolate but also any kind of wine, even the jugged stuff.

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