The anniversary questions
The Legal Genealogist surely wasn’t surprised that they got divorced.
My parents — who married 67 years ago today — were as different as chalk and cheese.
He was formal German immigrant.
She was folksy U.S. southern — of the West Texas variety.
He was raised as an only child, his only sibling having died before he was born.
She was the fifth-born of 12 children, and the fourth of 10 to survive to adulthood.
He was a college graduate, with a degree in engineering.
She dropped out of high school to work in the war effort.
He liked fried chicken livers and limburger cheese.
She liked fried okra and biscuits and gravy.
He fell asleep watching the 10 o’clock news.
She fell asleep watching the sunrise.
Even in appearances they were total opposites. He was blue-eyed and blond, at least as a child. She was dark-eyed and dark-haired — and pretty close to three inches taller.
No, it wasn’t a surprise at all that they divorced. The surprise was that they stayed together as long as they did.
And the real mystery is what brought them together in the first place.
Oh, I know the stories. He was teaching at the Colorado School of Mines. She was working as a paleontology assistant, doing painstaking work creating micropaleontology slides.
They started seeing each other sometime in the summer or fall of 1947; the ink on his divorce papers from his first wife was probably still wet.
And, the story goes, he went home to Chicago for Christmas 1947 and came back to find that she hadn’t met him as expected. He went to her apartment, got no response when he knocked, and broke the door down to find that she’d been overcome by fumes from a malfunctioning heater.
They were married three weeks later.
But the stories that were told aren’t the stories I’d like to hear today, not at all.
What was it about this newly-divorced man, who’d left a child behind when he left Chicago, that drew my mother to him? Did she know about the divorce, and the child, when they first met? How did he explain that to that family-centered young woman?
What was it about her raucous West Texas upbringing that drew my father to her? Did he have any clue what he was getting into when he decided to marry a woman who had more brothers and sisters than he had relatives of any stripe in the entire United States?
What did they talk about, as they looked to a future together? How did they think their two so-very-disparate backgrounds would mesh?
Growing up in a house where conflict was the rule, my brothers and sisters and I know only too well what drove them apart.
But what brought them together?
On this day, 67 years after they were joined together, I wish I’d thought to ask…