I believe in enduring love.
On her picture, she wrote, “Will you remember?…..Ethel.” On his, he wrote, “I’ll always be remembering and thinking of you………..Sumner.” The pictures were of my mother and father, Sumner and Ethel Willis, and their inscriptions tell of their love for each other. They met when she was 20 and he was 35, and it took him a year to convince her to marry him. They had been married for six years when my sister was born, and sixteen months later, I came along. When we were three and four and Mother was 30, he passed away suddenly at age 45.
Mother made every effort possible for us to “know” our daddy. She taught us all about his family in Massachusetts and made sure we wrote to our paternal grandmother and aunt on a regular basis. She delved into genealogy so we would know about his family history. She did such a good job that she became “the keeper of the flame” for the Willis family history, despite the fact that we lived in Texas, which is a lonnnnng way from Massachusetts! She would often say how proud Daddy would have been of whatever accomplishment we were celebrating. She talked to us about him often and would say, “You have your Daddy’s eyes……or hands or smile or disposition.”
My dad was a fabulous gardener, and our home was surrounded by beautiful flowers and flowering trees and shrubs. After he passed away, Mother, who was not a gardener, kept up the yard until the terrible drought of the 1950s. Then we were lucky just to save the trees, one rose bush, and some irises that he had planted by siphoning our bath water.
Six months before Mother died in 1984, she told me she dreamed of my dad. I asked her what he said, and she said he asked if she was ready. She said she told him, “No, not just yet.” Our daughter was being married in the next month, and I knew she wanted to be there. A few months later, Mother was in the hospital with lung cancer, and she mentioned that she had dreamed of Daddy again. I asked what he said, and she said he asked if she was ready. She said, “Yes, I’m ready.” The next day, she passed away, and it gave me a great sense of peace to know he was there waiting for her. Their love for each other never died.
A very thrifty person, Mother left us exactly what Daddy had left her – a house and a car that were paid for, furniture, jewelry and a little over $9,000 in cash. Those were the tangible things. The intangible were beyond price……………the joy of a job well done, how good it is to dig in the earth and the patience to see what the labor brings forth, how to manage and how to save, the unconditional love of family, and sustaining memories of a loving father we could barely remember.
My husband and I now live in the home where I grew up, the home so full of love. We have changed it in many ways, but in so many ways, it is just like it was in the 30’s……….beautiful yard with lots of flowers and trees (many that Daddy planted so long ago), and still a safe haven for friends and family alike. It’s not unusual for folks in our neighborhood to come back to the homes where they grew up, and it’s probably because of memories like mine.
Will I remember? Oh, yes, Mother and Daddy, I’ll always be remembering and thinking of you.
I believe in enduring love.
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