I have always championed the sentiment that my parents were the epitome of “true and unyielding love”. They say memories become slightly misaligned from the actual truth of the events. That might be true, but if I am guilty of exaggeration, I make no apologies.
I take satisfaction knowing that any exaggeration was skewed by my lifelong admiration and witness to their partnership. However stalwart my belief in their bond I realized it wasn’t all a bed of roses. They quarreled and bickered as much as any couple but each knew; almost as if by second nature, that nothing would break them apart.
At times, memories are scorched into us by cataclysmic events to which we have no control. One of the most vivid memories I have were of my parents arguing one late summer evening. The battle started and escalated in the kitchen about something my brother had done. Another distinct memory I carry, is of a ten year old boy huddled down against a wall next to his bed; panic-stricken, shaken and sobbing.
My parents had polar opposite views of how the situation with my brother should be handled. They screamed loudly in a tone that I had never witnessed before. As that 10-year-old boy, I sobbed uncontrollably for I was sure they would be getting a divorce. The screaming continued for nearly fifteen minutes straight; echoing down the hallway like thunder claps. I could hear my sister sniffling in the next room through the heater vent. She too was huddled up against the wall; frightened and afraid.
Then we heard my mother scream out to my father at the top of her lungs. “Art! Do you love me?” Without any hesitation and pause, Dad screamed in an equally loud emphatic voice, “YES MADGE… and I always will.” Then there was silence. Nothing could be heard but the pounding of our own hearts.
“Can you hear anything, Tommy?”, my sister whispered through the vent. I waited for any sound or creak in the floor that would give away their position. I feared of hearing anything at all. “I don’t hear anything, Lori.”, I whispered back. I strained to analyze every strange crack, murmur and swoosh that my ears were capable of processing. My anxiety rose as I concentrated on every tick of sound; while becoming increasingly annoyed by the relentless high pitch crackling of the cicadas outside my window.
Just then a low baritone voice gently bellowed like a cavernous echo through the heating grate. “I and your mother are fine kids.”, the voice said in a calming, soothing and reassuring tone. “There is no need to worry. We still love each other very, very much. Goodnight kids.”
As quickly as it came it vanished but without a missed beat, a more angelic voice serenaded through the vent.
“Goodnight kids. Momma will make you a nice breakfast in the morning. You have nothing to fear. Daddy and I will always love each other.” And then the voices were gone. We didn’t respond. We were both frozen in our tracks but over-joyed. As shock paralyzed us in our tracks knowing that our parents had caught us out of bed, we felt a renewed delight that they still loved each other so very much.
I heard my sister giggle and jump back into bed. Wiping my eyes, I lifted my shaking body from the floor and quickly darted under the covers of my own bed. With drifting yummy thoughts of Mom’s pancakes and the anticipated smells of the morning, I wiggled the blankets around me and floated toward blissful sleep in the coziness of my nice, warm bed.
Things were good. Things were safe again. All doubts left me but still, I felt ashamed to have ever lost faith in the first place.