My parents, Bill and Winnie Dobson, were not famous or sophisticated. They never made a lot of money, occupied high positions or owned possessions of great value. They were not highly educated or widely traveled. But they were splendid people who lived successful lives in the truest sense. Their love for each other and their six children was absolute. The simple, secure lifestyle we enjoyed was the result of their hard work and commitment to each other and to their children.
After dad died in 2000 and mom in 2002, we settled their modest estate and faced the sad reality of life without them. As I sat on the floor day after day sifting through boxes of their keepsakes, photographs, and diaries, I decided to write their story, so they would not just become smiling faces in fading photographs. This way I could keep their memory and the lessons they taught us alive.
Theirs is a simple story about enduring love and integrity. Our parents knew what they believed in and they followed their path without rancor or rejection when others, even one of their beloved children or grandchildren, chose otherwise. For example, when a young member of the family decided to live with her partner for a year before marrying, we all knew they would not approve, but would follow their rule not to judge or offer advice unless asked. When given the news, their only comment was that they were "disappointed." They never said another word about it and there was absolutely no change in how they treated the young couple and they were very pleased to attend their wedding a year later.
My dad and mom were not perfect. They made mistakes, and they suffered setbacks and losses during their 61 years of marriage. The key to their success as people and as parents was that marriage and family were their top priorities, as they devoted themselves to raising us to be good people with a strong faith in God and sound values. They were in charge, they set the rules and the standards, and then took responsibility to see that we followed them or experienced the always-fair and swift consequences. Being parents was a job they took seriously and enjoyed immensely. They were present, they were consistent, they were involved. And, they took great pride in the fact that all of their children turned out to be kind, honest, hard-working people. The lessons they taught us, mostly by example, about how to live successful lives were:
- Stay true to your principles and express your opinions on important issues, whenever appropriate, even if your view is unpopular.
- Love and support your children.
- Keep a positive attitude; things usually work out for the best in the end.
- Remember the importance of faith.
- Treat everyone with respect, regardless of race, gender, religion or social status.
- Be courteous to others and respect other people's property.
- The keys to a successful life are honesty, hard work, unconditional love and a sense of humor.
Through the years when I hear of parental neglect, even abuse, and see the lasting emotional wounds left by this type of parenting, it makes me realize that many people did not have the kind of family I had taken for granted. It was what one friend called a "good family." Not a perfect family, nor without conflicts and problems, but a solid family where both parents were loving, kind, endlessly supportive of each other and their children. I know now that this irreplaceable gift from two splendid people is the basis for my happiness and well-being.
Joy Dobson Way is a retired registered nurse who lives in Ashland. Her book "Splendid People," which will be published in late 2014, is a story about a family's journey through the changes and challenges of mid-century American life that shows the value of a loving family; email@example.com.
Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan firstname.lastname@example.org.