Editor’s note: In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked Stephen-725391 to share his parents’ love story with us. Enjoy!
Fourteen years ago two remarkable people passed on to God’s reward: my parents.
What makes them remarkable is found in their deaths. My mother died on Wednesday morning, and my father passed away the following day. My father profoundly loved my mother, and she had profoundly submitted her love to him.
Irene T. Martin was born in Alameda, Calif., in January 1921 and grew up never realizing the Great Depression. Raymond A. Wozny was born in Scotts Bluff, Neb., in August 1921 and grew up fully realizing the Great Depression.
Sometime in late 1942 or early 1943, Irene met Raymond on a blind date. Things must have gone well – maybe too well, for as my father told me, my mother was closing in on him. As a member of the U.S. Merchant Marine, he signed on and shipped out on a freighter going to the South Pacific. The first voyage lasted 14 months and then for a second time until the war ended.
Raymond and Irene, a convert to Catholism from the Episcopalian faith, were married Sept. 30, 1945, at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland, Calif. I was born in Oakland in March 1949, and two years later my brother would be born in San Jose, Calif. They were practicing Catholics for the rest of their lives, however, my mother never blindly submitted to the Church’s operation (nor, for that matter, any secular operation either).
By 1950 my father was a journeyman union plumber, I was approaching one year and my mother was at odds with her mother over raising me. They lived next door and in the apartment building owned by her parents.
Years later, my mother related that their move to San Jose, Calif., 50 miles distance from Oakland, was frightening there would be no running home to Momma. Everything would have to be taken care of between her and her husband, them and them alone. And so it was for almost 53 years.
A dutiful wife
Raymond and Irene were true lovers: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental. My father went to work and my mother took care of the home in all aspects. My mother even signed my father’s pay checks; I don’t think he ever signed one) and my mother took care of my father. I remember that up through 5th or 6th grade, maybe longer, my brother and I were in bed by 7 pm. A year later it got bumped back to 8 pm – even during the summer when the sun was still high in the sky!
At age 60, it just dawned on me what was going on!
My parents managed their money carefully. There were only two things he ever really wanted to buy: the new 1959 pick-up and the 110 acres next to his parents’ place in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They sent Douglas and me to St. John Vianney parochial school, supporting it and the parish with time and money, and saw to it that we graduated from Santa Clara University with engineering degrees. When my younger brother graduated from Santa Clara in 1973, the for-sale sign went up in front of the house in San Jose, and less than a year later they had retired to the 110 acres they had bought back in 1960.
From June 1973 until their deaths in spring of 1998, these 25 years was theirs.
I cherish a photo taken just before my brother’s wedding: Douglas behind my father and me behind my mother. It shows an attractive married couple both in their 53rd year. My mother had had two major surgeries by this time and would suffer two more major medical conditions: a benign tumor behind her left ear, the removal of which resulted in nerve damage that caused the sagging of the left side of her face; and the heart problems that killed her. Never, not once, did a hint ever cross my father’s mind to look to greener pastures.
How do I know? The proof is in his death!
My mother dropped dead mid-morning on a Wednesday. She was dead before she even hit the floor, we were told.
My brother, on his way to Coeur d’Alene for a visit, arrived later that day. He took my father to the funeral home to see my mother about noon on Thursday. While there, my father told my mother he would be with her soon. My brother relayed this to me shortly after I arrived that afternoon.
Historically, I told him, the husband will die within a year of his wife’s death.
I went with relatives to our motel and early that evening my brother called and said my father had collapsed. He joined my mother 36 hours after her death. The medical report said he’d died of a heart attack, but he had never had a heart condition. We know he died of a broken heart.
How or why did this true love come to be? Did I learn from it? To answer the second question first: no, unfortunately. Neither did my brother. Both my marriage and his marriage failed.
To answer the first question, I can only give examples.
There’s the move to San Jose I recounted.
And there’s the habit of sending children off to bed early. My parents were private in their relationship – physically, affectionately, intimately, domestically, financially, etc. There was no drama and no bringing others, even their sons, into their most private lives. My mother would not interfere – probably a hold-over from her dealings with her mother.
My father went to work and brought home the check and my mother did everything else. Something else: She never said no (as I can remember), yet she could achieve the results she hoped for with very little effort.
During our camping trip in 1959, we stopped on a logging road in Montana to set up camp. My father had it nearly set up when my mother said she was not comfortable. My father said nothing, but sure enough, we were moving to another spot in 15 minutes.
A wife who cherishes her husband as her most precious possession, holding nothing back from him, will find that he will give everything he has to her – even to death.