On the Other Side: An Anniversary Post

It’s been a while, I know.

Sometimes, when it’s hard to write or to know what to say, being quiet helps. These months, when I’ve needed to share my feelings amid so much change, this has mostly been kept to conversations with family and close friends. Days have been long for all of us. There’s so much noise already at my house, when I have a moment to think or write, lately, I need just quiet and stillness.

This year has been one for the books, hasn’t it? Pandemic, illness, changes, broken hearts, protests—so many people feeling so many things. My emotions have been all over the place too.

But right now, I want to tell you a story.

Forty-two years ago, Ronald Paul Brumble married Blanca Sanchez Vela. My parents celebrated their anniversary yesterday. My sisters and I wanted to do something special for them—maybe a beach getaway—and we realized quickly that it’s a difficult time to plan celebrations. Places are closed. Restrictions are everywhere. There’s still fear of catching the virus. The closest beach to us is having rioting at the moment and the beach town is under curfew. We have a curfew in our town too.

Many of us—myself included—have not lived through a year like this one before.

Maybe that’s why I keep thinking of my mom and dad. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate the milestone of their 40th anniversary. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer and was in the middle of that battle. There were some very hard days. Later that year, my mom would be diagnosed with cancer as well.

The next year, around the time of their anniversary, my mom was having chemo and her hair was falling out. It was an emotional and difficult time for her and all of us.

And now we’re here in 2020, and they’re both alive—thank God—but this year is strange and hard in different ways.

I keep thinking, though, it’s still important to celebrate life and love. And right now, I want to hold on to the people I love more than ever.

Forty-two years ago, my Caucasian father was marrying my Hispanic mother in a ceremony conducted by an Asian Catholic priest. The rest is history, as they say.

It’s the part that happened before that moment, that I want to share with you. 

In 1977, there had been a terrible situation of police brutality in Houston, Texas, in this case, involving a Latino man. In response to that, people--especially the Mexican-American community--were hurt and angry, and the city was on edge. Tensions would eventually boil over and there would be riots in Moody Park. 

My dad was still very much a rookie cop then. He’d grown up in east Texas, served in the army and been stationed in Germany, and after he was honorably discharged, he got a job as a police officer in the big city.

My mother had moved to Houston several years before from where she grew up in Harlingen, Texas. Harlingen is close enough to the border that even though you don’t cross into Mexico, on your way back northeast out of town, you still have to go through border patrol.

Two very different backgrounds. Two very different people.

Yesterday morning, my dad sent this picture on our family text thread. It’s the corner of Franklin and Crawford Street, where he first met my mother.

(Enter a collective Awww! from my two sisters and me. Along with heart eyes and affection for the two people who mean so much to us.)

As the story goes, my mom worked near downtown and was on her way to pick up some lunch, and while stopped at a red light, she saw a police officer standing next to an older, smaller man. The man was hunched over, sitting on the sidewalk. He was bleeding.

My mom pulled her little white mustang over and parked close by. She got out of her car and walked up to the police officer.

I think back to the scene of my mother—a young Latina woman—in downtown Houston, seeing something, and feeling worried enough to pull over and get involved. I don’t think I ever realized how brave she was in that moment. I realize it now.

(I should add that my mother is all of about five foot four inches. My father is closer to six foot four inches tall.)

My mother was and is a courageous woman.

She tugged on the cop's jacket and asked, “What are you doing?”

(When they’re telling me the story, at this point, my dad likes to add in that he noticed how cute my mother was, obviously.)

He explained to my mom that the man (who’d been drinking) had fallen down (my dad still remembers his name after all these years, but I won’t mention it here). The man had broken his nose and was bleeding. My dad had called for an ambulance.  

My mom turned to leave, and my dad walked her back to her car. He asked for her number (remember, she’s cute and he likes her!) and she promptly said no. (Remember, fiery Latina woman!)
So, my dad asked to see her driver’s license. He read her address and they talked for a moment about where she lived, then he asked for her number again. It’s a no again, but this time she decides she’ll give him her work number.

A couple of days after, he called her at work and asked her out for a date. She agreed, and they went out for pizza. My dad tells me that, like any good cop, he followed up on the situation a few days later and stopped by where she worked to see her and meet her friends.

More than four decades after that date, they have three daughters, three sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. 

They raised a family. My parents eventually moved from Texas to Virginia. But before that, they spent several years where my dad worked overseas for six months at a time. They've experienced good years and difficult years. They’ve faced illness by each other's side. Their own parents have passed on now. 

My parents are people of faith who love God and love each other. They’ve helped countless people and have touched so many lives. They aren’t perfect, of course, but the truth is, you don’t have to be perfect to love people and make a difference where you are able.

It comes down to this:
They built a life together.

I’m especially reminded of their story right now. But along with the fact that people who look different and are different can come together and live life together in beautiful ways, is the knowledge that sometimes love can follow brokenness.

Sometimes change is on the other side of pain.

That’s what we need right now, I think.

It can happen. One person at a time. One life at a time.

Beauty for ashes.

Praise for fear.

Gladness for mourning.

Peace for despair.

If we're brave enough to speak up. If we see each other as beautifully diverse human beings who are intrinsically loved and valued by God. If we recognize each other's pain and fear and try to help.

If we love each other like we're supposed to.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. 

Thank you for everything. I love you both with all my heart. 

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