The Minimum Gold Standard

I got a call from my a-mom yesterday afternoon, she wanted to know if I’d like to go out to dinner with her and dad tonight. She told me it will be their anniversary. I had no idea, we don’t do well keeping track of those kinds of things in my family. Mom knows the birth dates of all her children, including me, but dad, not so much. He has the vague idea that two of us were born in the fall, but that is it.

I’m not good with dates either, more than occasionally I have to do the math to figure out how old I am. After I hung up the phone I did wonder how long mom and dad had been married. I had to first, figure out how old I was, then add the appropriate amount of years to my age. Turns out it’s my folks 50th anniversary.

Around here most folks make a big deal about their 50th anniversary. The milestone justifies a picture (taken at Olin Mills, of course) in the local paper and a reception in the basement of house of worship of their choice, not to mention the mandatory card shower. My family never went in for that stuff.  Though we might all agree that showing up is 90% of success, we aren’t ones to celebrate meeting the minimum requirements. Being married for 50 years simply means you haven’t screwed it up, yet.

Even if doing what is expected isn’t much revered in my family, neither is royally fucking something up demonized. We’ve all done it, many times in spectacular form. These episodes get more play in family conversation, many times, than our achievements. We just don’t find it nearly so interesting when things go as they should, that’s expected, but a good near death experience, especially due to your own actions, is pure conversational gold.

I’ll be counting on that acceptance of screwing up tonight. The chances of me coming up with a suitable gift for my parents by 6 p.m. are slim to non-existent. My own guilt is tempered by the fact that no two people on the planet need one more thing in their house less than my parents. But karmic justifications do little when everybody else has a gift.

Maybe I should just thank them for expecting the minimum standard and teaching me to admit, and even sometimes embrace, my failures.

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