Interestingly, Russ turned 18 and was about to graduate from high
school on the day my baby brother (at the other end of the boomer
generation) was born in 1964. I was 10 at the time. How could I have
known that a winsome young dairy farmer 2000 miles away was destined
to become the love of my life and father of our two amazing
daughters? I was still playing girlish games of make-believe, one of
which was dreaming about the man I would marry someday.
then, was preparing to follow his dream of enlisting in the Marine
Corps. He passed up an FFA college scholarship -- he could have
studied animal husbandry at New Mexico State -- to pursue a military
life. And while I was agonizing through early adolescence, he was
surviving the hell of back-to-back tours in Vietnam.
The eight years of difference between our ages became less
significant when I was 24. In 1978, I reported for my first Marine
assignment to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where a lean, battle-hardened and
oh-so-good-looking-in-dress-blues Russ Thurman became my mentor in
the storied public affairs and combat correspondence field.
Now, the younger of our daughters has just graduated from high
school. I don't remember being so teary at her older sister's
graduation. Our firstborn also just happened to choose this week to
move out of our "nest" and into her own apartment. As if I werenąt
enough of a mess, she and the young man she has been dating for more
than a year (he's in law school in another town) are now talking
marriage. Have they no mercy on a mother's heartstrings?
Get the picture? This is a week of bittersweet events and
heart-warming memories, designed to drive a wife and mother to
quiet, tearful contemplation of a life that has been strung together
on the thinnest and most blessed of threads.
To write here of all those threads would require too much ink and
invade too much of our privacy. That's partly why I wrote my first
book in 2000. Google or check Amazon.com if you're interested.
Suffice it to say that our lives have been peppered with both
heartbreaking and truly miraculous events.
[to top of second column]
There was no real party to mark the passing of this momentous
occasion for Russ. He never wants a fuss. That doesn't mean we are
in denial about the significance of growing older, however. When we
look around us, we see how fleeting both life and health can be. We
still have both, and we are grateful. One day at a time.
Russ asked for one specific "gift" for his birthday, and he
received it -- along with a few other amusing tokens he didn't ask
for, from his brothers and sisters. He wanted only to have a day of
complete relaxation with our immediate family, which now includes
our apparent future son-in-law. We spent half that day on our
bucolic, 5-acre homestead, where we delighted in little things, like
watching a pair of bluebirds nesting, and the rest at a peaceful
riverside park off Virginia's lower Blue Ridge Parkway. It was about
as perfect a day as we ever recall having. Yes, a gift.
We are well aware of being the recipients of another hard-earned,
precious gift: wisdom. There are things in our mutual and respective
pasts we'd just as soon forget. But they are there for a reason. We
learned to grow up and mostly to make peace with it all.
We are now entitled to share our life stories, for better or
worse, with our daughters and their older step-siblings. We can't
hide the bad stuff. We hope they can see for themselves the good. We
know they have learned and will learn some lessons on their own.
That's the way it works.
And they know we will consider every future birthday a gift from
God -- "'til death do us part." That's also the way it should be.
Click here to respond to the editor about this