Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

A couple of weeks after my parents’ wedding anniversary, my sisters and I organized a dinner and family get together celebrating a lifetime of love. My parents’ love for each other and for each of us who was born into this microcosm of loving commitment.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love with a sparkling cider toast to Mom and Dad – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

I have watched my parents for a lifetime and made some observations. Frankly, I think that 53 years is a pretty amazing benchmark and I hope that the people in my life that I love will benefit from the lessons I have learned from my dad and mom.

Something I have learned from Dad and Mom is that you must care about and take care of one another.  My mom fixes my dad’s favorite meals just because he likes them and it makes him happy, even if they aren’t her favorites, too. Dad always carries in the groceries and other heavy cargo to and from the car for Mom. Their relationship is symbiotic. They look out for one another and show their care and affection in these simple, yet meaningful ways. Simply put, they are a great team.

Dad and Mom also remember why they fell in love in the first place. But, even more than the memories of the love at first or second sight, is the lifetime of shared experiences, the highs and lows, the stresses and accomplishments that glue them together. After 53 years, sometimes it is hard to see who one is without the other. They complement one another.

I might even dare write, although they might take issue with my choice of words, that my parents are unabashed feminists. During my lifetime of family memories, I only remember my dad supporting and encouraging my mom to follow her interests and reach her goals. He always believed she could do whatever she put her mind to do. It never diminished who he was and he never felt threatened by her achievements or by hearing her opinions. They made decisions together. They discussed things as equal partners and proceeded down agreed upon, sometimes heatedly agreed upon, paths. This model of sharing life together and joint decision making is an aspect of their relationship that I am proud to have as part of my heritage. It helped to shape me as the independent and confident person I have become.

Likewise, Dad never set limits on what he thought we, his four daughters, could do. He taught me to change a tire when I was old enough to drive a car, but urged me to get a good job so I could be in a position to have someone else change it for me. Dad told us we could do anything we wanted. There were no boundaries Dad put on our dreams. I am grateful for Dad, who affirmed and believed we could do the amazing.

Mom was always the heart of our home. She is the one who greeted us when we came home from school, taught us to cook, bake, sew and other lost arts of homemaking. Mom read us bedtime stories and colored in our coloring books with us. She is the one who faced down teachers when we came home in tears and later explained to us why we were in the wrong once she understood the grown up version of events. Mom demonstrated how to be a loving, protective caregiver, while modeling how to be a competent, capable woman, worthy of being listened to with respect for her wisdom, knowledge and experience.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

The Original Six Crowes – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

At the center of their relationship, Dad and Mom have faith in God and that anchors them and the rest of us, too. Through dark and difficult days, Dad and Mom are quick to reassure us that God is faithful and that he hears our prayers, even when we do not see it played out immediately in daily life.

In recent years, our family has faced daunting, unexpected challenges, the latest being my detour with cancer. Yet in the midst of it all, Mom and Dad pull together, lean on one another, and become the oaken strength needed to pull us all through. Their unshakable faith in God and in each of us steers us all through the deep waters of the unknown with the assurance that we will be okay. Things may not end up how we thought or wanted, but we will still be okay.

One of the fears I had for my parents as they grew older was that they would find retirement boring and become antiquated and dated in their thinking. Throughout my life, I had heard of people who could not figure out what to do with themselves and their health deteriorated. Or, they lost touch with the technological advancements of the times and unwittingly ostracized themselves by becoming difficult to include because of their inflexible ways.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

Family Celebrating a Lifetime of Love – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

This has certainly not been the case with my parents. In their retirement years, they have disproved the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” While I could comment on that being due to them being Crowes and not dogs, I will resist the temptation and simply say I think it is inspiring.

Since retiring, my parents have each developed new and unique interests they pursue individually. I can imagine how hard it would be to have dinner conversation with someone every night if both did the same thing all day everyday. Their pastimes give them something novel and interesting to share with one another and with the rest of us. Mom has developed her knowledge of technology and helps Dad with his projects when needed. It is exciting to see them craft their skills in new areas.

As you can see, we had compelling reasons to be celebrating a lifetime of love with our parents and boy, did we have fun! My sisters and I decided to put Dad and Mom through all the traditional paces of young love, like cutting the cake together, linking arms to drink to a teetotaler’s toast, and kissing on demand. They good naturedly played along, making the evening all the more festive.

But, we also planned activities that we had shared with Dad and Mom over the years. We played games, sang gathered around the piano while Mom played, and ate a delicious meal together, all of which was an integral part of our family life when we were growing up. And, I remembered how much fun we were together! I smiled and laughed and enjoyed celebrating a lifetime of love because I am a result of that love and commitment. I would not be the person I am today without that specific set of parents and those smart, multitalented, wild, and crazy sisters.

Surrounded by this great throng of people, I was struck by the many and varied talents represented. And to think, it all started with a young couple in love. Each of my sisters is intelligent, articulate, artistic, and funny. Their children have benefited from their unique talents and developed their individual expression of the innate artist within.

My eldest niece, Catie, has developed one of her great talents into a successful photography business and has graciously allowed me to use her photos in this post. Please check out more of her work in the following links:   Catherine Leanne Photography and Catherine Leanne Photography Blog . If you know of anyone in need of a creative photographer for an upcoming event in Northern California and beyond, I encourage you to contact Catie.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

Two Original Crowes’ Anniversary Cake – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

Each one of my sisters used their gifts and talents to organize this celebration. Alice planned the menu and delivered food from Tantardini’s, a European Bakery-Deli. Absolutely delicious. She also spearheaded the keepsake picture frame we all signed for a picture taken by Catie to commemorate the celebration. Leanne coordinated the upcoming not-so-secret-now getaway we decided they needed as a break from the stress of chemotherapy and other daily pressures. Lynnette oversaw the creation of the balloon bouquets by her teenaged sons, designed the table centerpiece, and created a cake that was both delicious and beautiful (assisted in the final touches by her twin sister, of course.) There were other things they did, but my sometimes unreliable, chemo affected brain cannot recall it all now.

Forgive me if I have crowed enthusiastically over my family, but I feel enormously blessed to have been born to these parents and to have grown up with such witty and interesting sisters. As we were celebrating a lifetime of love, first and foremost, we celebrated our parents’ love for each other, but I couldn’t help but reflect on how much love over our lifetime they have lavished on us.

I think that’s an incredible reason to celebrate.


  1. That was beautiful. Michele. Thanks so much for sharing. Hope your day is blessed. Hugs

  2. That was absolutely beautiful! How blessed you are to have such an heritage! Congratulations to your parents!

  3. How beautiful & sweet. It is a great accomplishment to be together that long & have such a wonderful family in these days. So proud of them!!! Congratulations.

  4. Congratulations to your parents on their 53rd Anniversary. I’ll never forget how warm and loving they were to me when I visited those years ago in college. As your sisters were as well. You are so lucky to have each other. Love the pictures.

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