Today, September 28, 2008, marks four decades that my parents have been married.
40 years is no joke, especially considering my parents’ unusual romance. As my dad himself disclosed in an awesome comment on my Vegas post, he has “also experienced some negative reactions from family, friends and even people who do not know me at all, because I married MY soulmate, who was older than me with two children. I said was, because now she is much younger that me! …at least, that is how she looks to me.”
I must say, Mama Bella does look stunning. And not a lick of plastic surgery or cosmetic injectables on her, for the record. She’s an obsessive water drinker, and that’s one of her beauty secrets I need to work on if I want to look like her when I’m in my Tina Turner years.
My parents were both born and raised in Belmont, a suburb of Port of Spain in Trinidad. My mother was 29 and divorced, raising two kids on her own — my sister Petal and my brother Clint. My father was just 19 years old, the best friend of her baby brother, my uncle Rhoden. My father recounted the relationship for me on the phone today.
“The circumstances that brought us together were not the best. There were so many people who weren’t ready for us, who tried to interfere in our lives. The world wasn’t ready for us, and those difficulties made us stick together. Because of all of that, we bonded, and we became best friends. Not everybody was supportive, from family right down. People just stop talking to you, everybody makes your business, their business. Your mother is an extremely courageous woman to have stuck through it with me. She got it from all sides, from her parents, her sisters, her brother, her friends. She saw gold in me. What I had in me, I didn’t even know yet. But she saw gold.”
My parents eloped, and famously, Mama Bella wore a white leather mini dress to her wedding. Hey, it was the Sixties!
They had three children of their own, my brothers Patrick and Dominic, then me almost ten years later, long after they assumed no more kids were in store.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s been a seamless and idyllic 40 years. My parents have been through just about everything. “We have withstood things that have led many other couples to divorce,” my dad informed me today. Watching my parents marriage – the loving moments and the arguments, the lofty ambitions and the crushing disappointments, struggles over money and the rewards of hard work, and between it all managing to raise five children and realize quite a few of their shared dreams — has been an invaluable education for me. Without all of that, I wouldn’t be the Afrobella you are reading today.
When I asked Mama and Papa Bella their secrets to lasting love, their answers were unsurprisingly similar.
“Prayer first, and compromise. And prayer to help you through the compromise. Unhesitatingly, I will tell you that,” my mother said with a hearty laugh.
My dad replied, “Prayers. And luck. Finding the right person has a lot to do with it, and most times people choose the wrong person. So there’s an element of luck. Marriage can be heaven or hell. But once you find the right person, you live a good life, and you pray, and you share everything the good and the bad, in sickness and in health – you good. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like, without your mother. I can’t even imagine. I don’t think anyone else in the world could have been as compatible with me.”
As their youngest daughter, I gotta say that I agree. Despite so many odds — a ten year age difference, being practically excommunicated by their families (most everyone has come around, I’m happy to report), and some really trying times and marital obstacles, my parents have stuck it through. Forty years! That deserves some kind of reward, and they’ve found that in each other. Mom and Dad, I love you very, very much. Here’s to many, many more wonderful years to come. I learn more and more invaluable lessons in life and love from you every day — thank you so much for allowing me to share the lessons I’ve learned from you, with so many people around the world. Love! What a beautiful thing.
Hey bellas — Feel free to wish Mama and Papa Bella a happy anniversary — most of you who read this blog regularly know that they’re reading and will most likely leave a comment of their own somewhere!