Dear Mom and Dad,
So, what was it like on that Sunday afternoon in 1949, when the two of you offered your pledges to take each other as husband and wife? I don’t know if it was muggy or sunny in Omaha that day, but whatever, I’m sure Dad was sweating up a storm, like always!
I think you were teaching elementary school, at that time, Mom, and Dad, I’m pretty sure you were going to college at the University of Omaha, since right after high school, you joined the Navy so you would officially be a veteran of World War 2. But from your stories, you fell in love with each other in high school itself – one of the stories being that you, Mom, tripped over Dad’s big feet stuck out in the aisle of the classroom – and that you fell for him over and over again. Kind of kooky and sweet, to be sure.
So Dad was in ROTC in college, and after graduating, was brought into the Air Force, at that time a pretty new branch of the military, and took your navigator training. Ray was born in 1953 in Omaha, and then Tim was born at Mather AFB near Sacramento in 1955. The babies, it seemed, reflected the places you were assigned to… But how many babies should a Cross couple have? Apparently, even though you were Methodist, it seemed a large family was your destiny! Back to Omaha, I came along in 1957 (certainly your greatest joy!) while Dad was actually on the other side of the world, assigned to Japan for the better part of a year.
I think perhaps it was around that time that you bought your first station wagon – a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air, big enough to haul around three boys, and make the trip to Newport News, Virginia, where Dad had to leave the family to go on assignment to Turkey. It was there that Robin was born in 1958. Finally, we ended up for a while in South Carolina, as Dad was part of the navigator training staff for the new RF-4cs, photo-reconnaissance fighters that were fresh to the Air Force. It was in South Carolina in 1960 and 1961 that Lisa and Julie were born. Did I mention you wanted a large family? That brought things up to six children, three boys born first, and then three girls. It was quite the household, having six children 8 years and under! And living in a three-bedroom home with one bathroom.
Your married life became a bit subsumed to the family life, although my memories include those terribly embarrassing times when we kids would walk into the kitchen and see you both smooching. Oh, the mortification! But yet, we loved it, because you loved each other.
1962 saw a huge adventure, as Dad was assigned to an exchange with the Royal Australian Air Force at Amberly Field in Queensland, and the eight of us went to live there for two years. It sure felt like a happy time, where we carried the notoriety of being the only Americans on base. And six children made it even a louder presence. I can remember the parties you all would hold at the house, with music and laughter and great memories being made.
Back to South Carolina in 1964, as Dad continued his work, and Mom ran the home. In 1965, just as an exclamation point, Amy was born, bringing us to a final total of 9 in the house. We spent five years there – the longest time I ever spent in one place until I was 32. At one point, you all decided to start building a house, with the possibility of Dad retiring there in South Carolina. Was it your dream home? I just remember spending a lot of time in the woods on site, not knowing the future…
But the future came in a difficult way. The Vietnam War was on, and Dad felt his duty and opportunity to make his place there. So, in 1969, you both moved us to Omaha, back to the family home, and bought a house, and then Dad went off to the other side of the world again, but this time, a far more dangerous spot. First Vietnam, and then a transfer to Thailand, while Mom did her best to “hold down the fort” as it were with kids from 4 years old through high school. I remember it being such a lonely time.
When Dad came home, the Omaha World-Herald ran a entire page article! The pictures showed all of us kids on the tarmac, surrounding the scene of Dad giving Mom a huge kiss, just like the end of World War 2. Before Vietnam, Dad would call Mom “Kid” – but after that time, it was pretty pronounced that he only called her “Lady.”
Then it was on our way to Grand Forks, North Dakota. Not Dad’s best assignment, especially due to the cold and the amount of darkness that seemed to pervade everything. After 4 years there, Dad arranged for a new assignment – in Texas – Fort Worth, from where he retired after nearly 33 years, and they made their home as children spun off and found their adult lives as well. I never lived with you in Texas for any length of time, since I was in college then, and seminary, and then moved back to the Dakotas where I could start my own family with my dream girl. In part, I have been able to love Cheri the way I do because I witnessed your life together, not only as parents, but as husband and wife.
You had 44 years together on earth before Dad died in 1993. Mom spent 26 more years without Dad, until 2019 brought your eternal reunion. I don’t know theologically if after death people still understand marriage and being together, but if heaven is indeed heaven, in my heart, I have to believe that God provides that wonderful gift.
So, today would be your 72nd anniversary. I do hope you both are enjoying it wonderfully in the arms of the One who made it possible in the first place. We of course miss you all terribly, but this is your time to never have to move again, never have to say goodbye again, and always can even sneak a heavenly kiss, I imagine. Enjoy the day – as we think of you.
Saying for the day: If life were easy, where would all the adventures be? And indeed, a significant, intentional life will always be filled with the stuff of adventures, so long as we keep our hearts, and eyes open.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.