Sunday, December 26, 2010

40 years

On December 26, 1970, my parents, Kathleen Murphy and Michael L. Beatty, walked down the aisle to take their place at the altar and say their vows. It was the day after Christmas, they were in Abilene, Texas (where my mother had lived all her life and my father's family had lived intermittently throughout the years), and the day was so busy that neither one of them managed to eat anything at the reception. Fortunately for them, a thoughtful caterer had the foresight to pack them a double-portion boxed lunch of fried chicken to eat on the way to their honeymoon in San Antonio. Unfortunately for my dad, however, my mother ate the entire thing -- double portion and all -- while he drove.

And that little story, y'all, is what we down in Texas like to call "foreshadowing." The lesson being, of course, that while marriage might be a pretty fun road, at the end of the day there's always gonna have to be a few compromises if you want to survive the drive.

And survive they have, despite what some might call a pretty bumpy road. After 2 years of marriage my mom moved to Texas to accommodate his work, which was followed 2 years later by his moving to Idaho to accommodate her PhD. At 9 years of marriage, while they were temporarily working in different universities in separate states, my mother gave birth to their first child (and my older sister) and my dad's epic journey to try and make it from Wyoming in time for the birth has become the stuff of family legend. At 11 years of marriage they gave birth to their second child (yours truly, of course) and were told to "just take her home and love her as long as they had her" due to a fatal disease called cystic fibrosis.

At about 15 years of marriage they moved again, this time back to Houston for my dad's job, and 6 months later my mom moved back with just the two kids in an effort to stabilize my health. Thus began somewhere close to 9 years of commuting -- sometimes between CO and TX, sometimes further (like to MA while my mom received her third advanced degree) -- for my father, who nonetheless managed to be present for nearly every soccer game, horse show, or badly costumed school play. (Major kudos to BOTH of them for pulling that one off, by the way.) The separation ended at about 23 years, when my dad finally returned full-time to Colorado. Shortly thereafter, both my parents moved their jobs (but not their family) to a larger city in Colorado. Around 27 years they sent their oldest daughter off to college, and my dad began a family tradition by driving her cross-country himself, with pit stops at the Grand Canyon and Vegas on their way to Los Angeles. My own trip, 3 years later, would include stops all along the Deep South, including Abilene (the origin of this story), Shreveport, Jackson, and Birmingham en route to Atlanta. My mother flew out to meet the weary travelers at our final destination and help move into college, and both times my dad snapped a picture of the departing daughter walking away from the rental car on her way into the dorm solo, turning back for one last wave and a smile before beginning college.

If parting is sweet sorrow, then my parents have certainly worn that emotion into the ground. At 38 1/2 years my mom left again -- this time to stay in New York with me while I awaited lung transplant. At 39 1/2 years, my parents received the gift of knowing that the dire predictions of my original doctor were wrong, and this gift came in the form of the ultimate gift from some other family -- another set of parents, another spouse of another loved one. And at 39 3/4 years, my mother returned back to CO to complete that cycle -- though it was and is hardly the completion of their collective journey.

And now, at 40 years, they have been Texans, Idahoans, Wyomingites, Coloradans, Massachusonians, and New Yorkers; between them they have no less than 4 post-graduate degrees and have been lawyers, small business owners, researchers, politicians, professors, authors, deans, and honorary nurses; they have traveled to 6 continents and spent at least some time in pretty much any place you can think of; they have friends all over the world; they are loved and admired by many (myself included); they are two of the smartest and kindest people I know, by far; and they are still the parents of two living children and two very sweet dogs (and the "grandparents" to one pretty roly-poly shorkie).

Congratulations, Mom and Dad. Erin and I love you and can't wait for the four of us to celebrate 50 years together.


  1. What a wonderful post to honor your parents!! I know they're amazing people because it shows in everything you do! Congratulations to them! :) Love you!

  2. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to Mom & Dad Beatty!

  3. sweet and amazing your parents are. Happy Anniversary to them!! Great story!

  4. What a beautiful love story, not only their love for eachother, but their love for you and Erin. Not only are they fabulous parents, they are a great uncle and aunt, too. Happy Anniversary to a wonderful couple!

  5. Happy Anniversary Mr and Mrs the next 40 you should be able to do as you please right?