This year my family celebrated Valentine’s Day together. It was my mother’s idea. As an Assembly member, she is required to spend most of her weekdays in Sacramento, and when she’s home, her schedule is full of events and meetings throughout her district. Because of that busy schedule we weren’t able to celebrate my parents 53rd wedding anniversary two weeks ago, so she thought it best to pick another date…a day when all four of her children and our families could be together to celebrate. And why not – since we’re celebrating the anniversary of the commitment that has become the foundation of our family – celebrate on the day we celebrate commitment, love and romance?

Since Valentine’s Day was also on a Sunday, we all attended St. Paul AME, the church where we have been active members for almost 45 years. During the service my dad spoke about his commitment to his family, his community, and to the church family that provided him with early leadership opportunities that shaped the direction of his life, and in turn the lives of his children.

In honor of the milestone, my sister Regina had a great idea for a gift. “I would like everyone to send me at least three memories of mom and dad over the years,” she said in an email to the siblings hoping to get 53 memories from the children and grandchildren – one for every year of their marriage. What a thoughtful and brilliant idea. There were remembrances from my siblings, our spouses, and our children. Some were recollections from my mother’s best friend. Some were funny, others were painful, and many were private moments shared simply between my mom or dad and one of us.

One of the most vivid memories I chose to share was from our bi-annual family vacations to the east coast to visit my dad’s parents and siblings in North Carolina. I remember listening to 8-track tapes (and later cassettes) and have fond memories of those month-long excursions set to the soundtrack of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Tina Turner. I remember with particular fondness my last family vacation road trip with my parents listening to hits from Tina’s album Private Dancer -“Let’s Stay Together”…”Better Be Good To Me”… and “What’s Love Got To Do With It” – while cruising long stretches of Interstate 40.

As we sifted through the “chest of memories” my sister assembled from our various recollections and reflections, I couldn’t get Tina’s song “What’s Love Got To Do With It” out of my mind. If “commitment is the foundation of great accomplishments” and a “process” that truly shapes our lives, as Dr. Heidi Reeder argues in her book Commit to Win, then my parents’ 53-year commitment to each other has shaped more than their lives.

For the two of them, “love” clearly has everything to do with it. Not only do they love each other and have remained intentional in maintaining the commitment they made 53 years ago, that love has overflowed to their family, friends, church, and the community they have chosen to serve.

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