My brother Teddy gave me permission to publish the speech he gave at my parents’ 50th anniversary party:
One day when I was about ten years old my father came home with a big metal hoop and a pile of twine. I thought it was strange. What could anyone want with this junk? But when I woke up the next morning he had woven a perfect net out of twine and strung it onto the hoop to make a fishing net, better than anything you could buy at a store.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I went to bed there was a pile of junk on the living room floor. When I woke up it had been transformed into something beautiful and valuable. I bet you didn’t know your daddy could do that, my mother exclaimed. Despite herself, she was very impressed.
Later that day my father and I went fishing. Not the lame kind of fishing where you stand around with a pole all day and go home with nothing. Dad stood knee deep in the water and every time he dipped the net into the water it came out full to the brim with wriggling fish. I was amazed. I thought, Who is this man? Even the fish obey him!
Within an hour we filled two gigantic lawn bags full to the top with fish. There were at least 200 pounds of fish all told.
We got home late at night and when we dragged the fish in to the kitchen my mother’s jaw dropped. It’s too many! How am I going to clean all these fish before they spoil?
We hadn’t thought of that.
My mother stayed up all night, scaling, cleaning, and gutting fish, and by the next morning, the mountain of fish had been filleted and frozen. I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I went to bed there was a waist-high pile of dead fish on the kitchen floor. When I woke up it had been transformed into something valuable.
I don’t know how she did it, but somehow your mommy cleaned all those fish, my father exclaimed. Despite himself, he was very impressed with my mother.
I’ll never forget this incident. Imagine what it does to the world view of a little boy to realize that his parents are complementary parts of a whole, that they complete and reinforce each other; that the reason they can take care of everyone around them is because they work together. This is the secret to becoming a pillar of strength.
My parents can move mountains. They can start with nothing and before you know it they will turn it into something that you couldn’t even imagine. Something you didn’t know you needed until you can’t live without it.
Together my parents built a seminary which has produced countless ministers, who are out teaching the gospel on every corner of the planet. What a monumental undertaking. It can only be understood as my parents’ labor of love. Love of the gospel. Love of God. And love for each other.
It’s true. My parents can move mountains. But the most amazing thing they ever did for me was to build the loving family that has been my pillar of strength. They gave me the gift of three siblings with whom to navigate this crazy, complicated, sometimes painful, sometimes staggeringly beautiful life. As I watched my brother give his speech (through tears – damn him!), I was filled with a sense of deep gratitude for having had the privilege to grow into adulthood with these people. I think what I’ll treasure most about my parents’ anniversary party and the week we spent at the beach right after the party, is the time my brother and sisters and I had to reconnect and strengthen our bonds.
After that car ride to the restaurant, we made a special effort to spend some time with just the four of us again. One night, after all the children had been put to bed, we went to the Fenwick Boardwalk and shared stories that had us laughing so hard we were crying:
Our CrossFit gym-owning, paleo-diet following, clean-living, super-healthy brother even consented to take a token lick of cotton candy in solidarity with his not-so-fit sisters:
Now that’s love…and I couldn’t imagine living without it!