The Love of a Lifetime: “Til Death Do We Part”
I wrote this article, which was published in February 1992, three years before my father, Lenzie Marshall, passed and ten years before the passing of my mother, Hattie Lee Marshall, in 2002.
My parents grew up surrounded and influenced by farm-life in the South. Daddy only completed third grade, and my mother finished eight grade. They got married in November 1943, following the Great Depression and during the time when the United States was embroiled in World War II. Eleven months after my parents’ wedding, their first child was born. The second child was born the following year, and the third child was born twenty-one months later. Hence was the relatively typical pattern for the birth of the first six of thirteen children.
There were difficult and trying days. We lived in a “four room” house for many years with no indoor plumbing, and our heating and cooking were done on wood burning heaters and stoves. Those four rooms were often cold enough for us to wear our coats while inside, but the frigid discomfort was compensated by the warmth that we felt in just knowing that our parents were together with us.
We grew some of our food, but, even with my mother being careful to freeze and can as much as possible, the food was usually consumed before the next season of planting and harvesting, but we made it. Although our next meal might not have been our choice of food or had already been on the menu for the last few days, at least we knew that our parents were there for us and were being responsible to us. We were family. We had all things in common. Things that mattered the most – our parents and a stable family environment.
Daddy is a very strong and proud man. He would often take jobs that required an hour-or-so commute, and that was a lot considering the fact of him having barely enough money for gas and a vehicle that was less than desirable. For such jobs, he would get up before daylight. However, he was not the only one who got up so early. Daddy enjoyed perked coffee, and as my mother was preparing a wholesome breakfast with homemade biscuits, I would often be given the responsibility of making the coffee.
We experienced many mountains and valleys. During one valley experience, my mother suggested to daddy that he sign up for public assistance. No matter how my mother insisted, my father refused. He knew that it was his responsibility to see that our basic needs were met, and he was not about to ask anyone to do this for him. I grew to appreciate the stubborn determination that Daddy exhibited. Somehow, he always came through.
Our anxiety heightened as Christmas approached. We would locate an evergreen tree in the woods, bring it home, and decorate it with homemade ornaments. Twas the night before Christmas when we could hardly sleep. We looked forward to getting up the next morning and grabbing the brown lunch bag that our parents had prepared for us. This was the one time during the year that we could almost be assured of receiving at least one fresh apple, an orange, a tangerine, some candy, and a small ration of mixed nuts. My siblings and I sat around eating from our bags as long as the goodies lasted. Those were the days.
Through the good times and the bad times, my parents stuck together. Looking back over my life, I have since understood just how wonderful a childhood I experienced. I had parents who taught me how to stand the test of time and to meet life head on without crashing. I had parents who respected each other and their children enough to maintain a wholesome atmosphere in which we flourished and matured.
Even as a child, I knew there were many difficulties, but not until I became an adult did I fully understand some of the hardships that my parents endured. Through it all, my parents remained committed to each other and to us. There was no psychologist in the picture to explain to them how their staying together, sticking it out, and holding on would have a positive effect on their future generations. Perhaps, it was the influence of my grandparents, who also followed the “till death do we part” philosophy.
Daddy and Mother recently celebrated 48 years of marriage, of growing together, of becoming one, of sometimes having just enough food for the children and none for themselves, of little or no money on innumerable occasions, of pampering sick children when they themselves were sick, of forgiving and being forgiven, of exemplifying the meaning of “TIL DEATH DO WE PART.”