A very happy Saint Valentine’s Day to Mrs. Helen Boyea and Mr. Earl Boyea, mother and father of Bishop Earl Boyea, who are now 72-years married. Ad multos annos! In this very personal Saint Valentine’s Day letter, Bishop Boyea, their eldest son, explains what he has learned about love from the example of his mom and dad. Bishop Boyea writes:
This has been very tough for dad. A couple of weeks ago, we had to place mom in a nursing home due to dementia. He has been visiting her daily and finds it difficult to leave her at the end of the visit. Mom seems fine with everything. But after 72 years of marriage not to be living together has been a challenge for dad.
I have often said that if mom and/or dad had known what they would be facing 72 years ago, would they have walked down that aisle. Dad’s many accounts of taking mom dancing tell me that yes, they would have. Ten kids later and all the normal challenges of earning a living, raising a family, loving and correcting kids, learning to be a husband and a father, a wife and a mother, those two are my heroes.
Mom was a city girl whose family moved to Cheboygan from Detroit when she was in High School. Dad was a farmer’s son also in Cheboygan. The first time mom sat down to dinner at the Boyea farm, grace was said and the food was gone. Grandma got up and took a prepared dish out of the oven and placed it before mom telling her that from now on she would have to learn to attack the portions on the table like everyone else. There were many other lessons which softened some of those urban edges with which she had grown.
Dad was always working to make ends meet. In eighth grade, when I wanted to go to the seminary, he said he could not afford it. Then, some time later, as a result of an improvement at Pontiac Motors which he had suggested, he was awarded $6000. He said I could go to the seminary. Dad made sure all of us would save a buck by learning how to change our own car oil, spark plugs, tires, and other maintenance matters. All of us learned minor home repairs and that too has paid off over the years. We kids, however, have taught him to say, “I love you,” to each of us as we say it to him. Never too old!
This is the heart of St. Valentine’s Day: permanent, faithful, tested, difficult, love. At 94 and 93, though they are no longer living together, they are still that kind of Sacrament for all of us. Thanks, mom and dad.