"The Key" by Jackson Pollock, 1946.
My parents were married on November 28, 1968, and today is their 36th wedding anniversary. Can you imagine? Thirty....Six...Years. I don't know how they do it. They survived family battles when my father decided to marry the woman he loved rather than the woman in the neighborhood his parents wanted him to marry; they survived a rough year as strawberry pickers in San Luis Obispo when my mother was pregnant with me; they made it through fires, hurricanes, floods, the early-80's Bull Market, the Black Monday stock market crash, and being robbed at gunpoint. They survived raising four bratty kids. Somehow they made it through those awful fights they had when we were young. My parents, who have never traveled except to find work, who haven't read all those fancy books we have or know those ten-dollar SAT-words we like to throw around, who didn't make it past high school, who wouldn't know a marriage counselor from an accountant ~ what do they know that we don't? How did they know what to do and when and how to make it work? With all my education, with all my brains, well I've been outsmarted by the heart and soul and laughter of two loud loving Latinos who don't give a damn how hard things get.
By all means, theirs isn't, and wasn't, a "perfect marriage". But, through thick and thin, they cobbled together their own Mexican version of Wabi Sabi ~~ beauty in their imperfection. They don't even know that their relationship embodies this other profound aspect of Wabi Sabi ~~ an appreciation of the cycles of life and careful, artful mending of damage.
I marvel at their Jackson-Pollock-splattering of emotions, their abstract expression of passion, love, and committment. Yeah, their marriage reminds me of a Jackson Pollock painting.....I have to digress to share this quote I found about Pollock's style:
There are three general approaches that can be distinguished within the abstract expressionsim movement. The first of which is made famous by Jackson Pollock, one of the most well-known of this movement. His work was large in scale, loud in color, and free-flowing. He is most closely linked with what is known as action painting. No drop of paint is an accident and loose, rapid sweeping brushstrokes make this style reminiscent of the Surrealists.
And so I marvel also at my parents' colorful and loud "old school marriage," their complex canvas of undying committment, and how our modern-age relationships pale in comparison ~ this culture and age where our relationships, like our technology, become outdated as soon as they are released, and an update or upgrade is always a mouse-click away, or so it seems. Our generation? We know how to program our computers to download today's news, but we can't figure out the simple hard-wiring behind our own daily emotions. Hmm, most of us nowadays can't even make it through graduate school, or a fight, without breaking up ~~ we're too quick to hit the CTRL-ATL-DEL keys in our relationships and "irreconciliable differences" is the modern catch-all phrase for "this is just too hard."
My parents ~ it was always too hard ~ never enough money, never enough room, hand-me-down clothes for the kids in the early years ~~ generations worth of struggle and strife and sappy Mexican music ~ How did they do it? When they wanted more, they demanded more...of each other. When they had questions or angst or doubt or fear, they didn't turn to Google or Dr. Phil or medication or escape ~ they turned inward and demanded the answers from each other. They give it their all and when they fall short, which is often, they give some more. Damn. I was born a generation too late and wish I could live up to their committment....wish the world around me could be half as committed as my parents are. Usually, my siblings and I make it home for Thanksgiving because, indeed, we are thankful my parents stuck out and made it work, somehow. This year, though, my brother Rudy bought a house in Virginia and so money was too tight to come home ~ he celebrated at home with his own family, his amazing wife and two kick-ass kids; my other brother, Armando, just got engaged so they celebrated with his fiancee's family, but they stopped by my parent's house on Thanksgiving; my sister Angelica (the good kid in the family) and her wonderful boyfriend "represented" and spent Thanksgiving with my parents. As for me, with the impending layoff, money was too tight to fly home so I tried to make something special of my own Thanksgiving ~~ with dismal results; it seems I can't do anything right.
So, here's to my parents, and their mixed-up marriage and kooky kids and rock-strong relationship, even with all the erosion that life's river of struggle has caused. Someday, I hope I make them proud. For now, when I think of them, I like to take out this photo of them with me on my graduation day from law school, in May 2003. It reminds me that I have my dad's kooky curly hair and my mom's eyes ~~ and, I hope, maybe that means I have some of their relationship MoJo, too ~~ because the canvas I treasure remains incomplete, chaotic, uninspired.
Have you called your parents today? ~ :- )