My father asked my mother to marry him without asking her father for her hand. He knew what the answer would have been if he had. My mother’s parents did not approve of my father. He was my mother’s first boyfriend, and he did not fit the mold of what they expected for her. First of all, he was Polish. As a Croatian, you married a Croatian. It was expected. Secondly, he was a high-school drop out and he was five years older than she was. My mother had a attended Lord’s Academy and graduated top of her class. She was a college Freshman, and they expected great things from her.
After only six months of dating, my father went to the jewelry story and bought a ring: a spectacular square-cut diamond set in white gold. It was gorgeous and it was everything my mother represented to him. He proposed in his 1958 Buick Super because people didn’t stage grand gestures in those days. My mother cried and insisted on going home to show her parents. She ran into the house to show them the ring and my grandmother with a disapproving glare said, “So you’re going to marry a Pollock,” and then she burst into tears. She never did wish my mother good wishes, and my grandfather walked out of the room. Her parents’ response disappointed my mother and hurt her to the core. They never approved of any decision she made, and she knew that for the rest of her, they would watch her with the same disapproving stare.
Sometimes, I think she married my father just to rebel. And with this rebellious nature, she plunged herself into a marriage with a man that she constantly corrected. His English was poor and she was embarrassed he did not graduate high school. She insisted he read, and he would not allow him to join a bowling league because she viewed it as low class. I think he was shocked at the realities of marriage. They really had nothing in common those first few years.
Even though they were different, they shared a loved that was unconquerable. They swore “in richer and poorer, in good times and bad, death do us part” and they meant it, although they spent everyday of their entire relationship testing those words. They were always trying to test each other’s boundaries. It’s as if they were in a constant game of I-Knew-You-Couldn’t-Love-Me-Enough. Each of my parents broke the bonds of marriage. They each did horrible acts to hurt the other person. They waited for the other to fold. “If I do this one horrible thing. This unmentionable action, will you leave me or will you stay?” They pushed and pushed and pushed, but no one ever left. It was not uncommon for them to be awake at three in the morning screaming at each other and throwing dishes. However, in the morning, they would quietly clean up the mess together, and somewhere in the midst of the madness, they would make up. Each and every fight led to a new level of understanding. Each and every fight led to a deeper and stronger love.