Tuesday, October 02, 2012

COLUMN: Anniversary

Today is Sunday, September 23rd. This means that, as of yesterday, my parents have been married for forty years. That's impressive. Heck, in today's world, it might even be considered beating the odds. Add the fact that they've had to put up with ME for all forty of those years and it MIGHT just be a miracle.

I wanted to do something special to celebrate 40 years of Clan Brown, but I'm not really sure what it would be. My parents aren't your stereotypical couple. They don't much like to go out. They don't dig fancy dinners or movie theatres or, well, most forms of human interaction. I think my parents are at their happiest in their living room, a war movie on TV for my dad and a freshly loaded Amazon Kindle for my mom.

I did some checking and the traditional gift for a 40th anniversary is... rubies. Umm. Hmm. Don't get me wrong, I've got ZERO complaints about life in the newspaper biz. That said, it's not a career path that really lends itself towards gold card access at Rubies-R-Us if you catch my drift.

Instead, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to dedicate this column to my awesome parents and tell every one of you ten reasons why I'm super thankful I get to call them mom and dad.

#10 - If my parents hadn't gotten married and my dad hadn't adopted me when I was tiny, my name to this day would be Shane Knecht. No offense here to our amazing copy editor Heidi (who shares my former last name but NOT my genes,) but "Knecht" is the noise my cat makes when she hacks up a hairball. In many more ways than one, I'm better off Brown.

#9 - If I'm to believe the stories my dad tells in hushed whispers about evading police while "test-driving" motorcycles back in the 1960's, I'm pretty sure my mom's "ditch-the-bike" ultimatum was the only thing that kept him from kissing a tree at maximum velocity at some point.

#8 - Three days after I finish writing this column, my 66-year-old father and 64-year-old mother are going to make the fifty mile drive from Galesburg to Rock Island for the sole purpose of cleaning out the gutters of my house because I don't know how to do it and mostly because I find it kind of icky. I, meanwhile, will be in an air conditioned office and won't even get to see them while they're up here. 'Nuff said.

#7 - My parents don't just share my twisted sense of humor -- they passed it on to me. I wouldn't find life nearly as funny were it not for the wickedly skewed and delightfully cynical lenses my parents viewed the world through. I like to laugh, but the funniest moments of my life have usually come in the presence of my folks, and usually at the most inappropriate of times. Whether it was my mom and I giggling uncontrollably when the minister kept getting my grandpa's name wrong at his funeral, or my dad's hysterical breakdown after spending an entire day driving us through endless stop-and-go suburban Florida, my parents taught me to find the funny hidden inside the crummy. This column wouldn't exist without them.

#6 - My dad worked as a brakeman for the railroad. On the list of World's Most Thankless Jobs, his was relatively high. With one phone call, he'd have to drop everything he was doing and hop a train to Chicago and back, time and again. Sometimes Christmas would have to come a day late (boo!), but it was okay 'coz sometimes Christmas would have to come a day early (yay!) Did he like his job? Well, at any given time, my father could tell off the top of his head the exact number of days until his retirement. Yet he did it. For years and years. For us.

#5 - Dad could sit in his workshop and take a tree and turn it into a piece of furniture. I could sit in front of my Apple IIe and take a Level 1 Magician and turn him into the Archmage of Skara Brae. Yet my mom was the only one who could yell loud enough to bring us all together for dinner. It was a team effort that worked fairly well.

#4 - Guess how many times I had a babysitter as a kid? Hint: I didn't. My folks took me everywhere. They were never a "couple." Instead, we were a family, and that was simply that. I never really thought about it at the time, but that's one heck of a sacrifice. No R-rated movies, no candlelit dinners, and ME as your primary source of entertainment? I shudder at the thought.

#3 - I'm thankful for the allowance I received as a kid, especially when it was "earned" for the sole chore of emptying the dishwasher every night. And when I told my folks that I wanted to spend my very first allowance on "Ronco Presents: Hit Explosion '78" because I wanted to own the theme song to "Welcome Back Kotter," they didn't blink an eye. And when 90% of the rest of those allowances went to music, it was cool by them. I didn't just grow up hearing that I could be whatever I wanted to be, I grew up BELIEVING it. And while I don't know if that dream "something" was to be a full time sales rep, part time DJ, and weekly columnist, I'm pretty happy how it all ended up. And I still own that Ronco record.

#2 - After 40 years of close quarters cohabitation, they don't just share their life together. They actually still LOVE each other, up to and including playful PDA in front of their slightly skeeved-out son. It's kinda gross. But admirable.

#1 - At 41 years of age, I find myself single -- and this may sound weird, but I'm thankful to my parents for that. I've been in some good relationships, don't get me wrong. I've even been in a couple of great ones. But I'm not settling for good or even great. Why? Because I spent the first 17 years of my life bearing daily witness to a perfect relationship. Freud be darned, but that's where the bar will forever be set. Thanks to my parents, I know real love exists, and if THOSE two weirdos can find each other in life, there's hope for me yet.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad. I love you guys.

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