My parents have been married for 41 years. Through their ups and downs, they’ve taught me a few things about what true love is and what it is not.
1. True love is not convenient. It always requires a sacrifice.
In 1979, shortly after the birth of their fourth child, my parents sold their duplex in town and moved the family into a two bedroom mobile home five miles west of Burley, Idaho. They planned to live in this temporary trailer house for a few months while my dad cleared the land, designed and built a geodesic dome house—an idea he got from studying the architecture of Buckminster Fuller.
My mom was sweet, optimistic, and encouraging. Also very naïve. She sacrificed her comfort and convenience to encourage and support my dad’s dream. Living in an ultra modern architectural masterpiece would be worth it in the end.
2. True love is not pretty. In fact, sometimes it’s ugly and has morning breath.
Progress on the dome was slow. My parents owned an art gallery and framing business in town and trying to balance the demands of his business, building the dome, and finding time to paint (he later became a professional artist) often overwhelmed him. They decided to pay for dome construction costs as they went instead of incurring debt. His dream became more and more expensive.
My dad’s design involved constructing gigantic triangles out of rebar as the framework for the dome structure. This is harder than it sounds, especially for one guy working alone. When the rebar was finally in place, he used six-inch thick Styrofoam triangles, tied to the rebar with chicken wire, for insulation. The final goal was to spray the inside of the dome with gunite, which would hold the structure in place. It would be completely self-supporting–no walls needed to hold the roof up.
But there was one small problem with the plan. The wind. Burley rivals Chicago for the title of “windy city.” Sometimes the gusts would hit 60 MPH. Hurricane style wind. With the insulation almost completely in place, I remember coming home from church one Sunday to find that half of the Styrofoam house had blown away again. Months and months of work were literally gone with the wind.
We found pieces of the house scattered across neighboring counties. Idaho started the Adopt a Highway program right around that time, but that might be a coincidence.
3. True love is not always comfortable. True love is hard work, like wall squats and burpees. It makes you stronger.
More years passed—nine to be exact.
More babies came—six total, with one more on the way.
My dad finally managed to keep all of the insulation in place long enough to spray the gunite, and the dome hadn’t blown away in a really long time.
By that time I was 12. Over the years, I watched my mom suffer all kinds of deprivation and hardships living in that small trailer house. To say that we were a close-knit family isn’t a joke. We were on top of each other. And the trailer hadn’t aged well. Things were breaking and falling apart. With the seventh baby on the way, my mom was at her wit’s end. She was ready to live in a real house. When the water pipes froze and burst, leaving her without running water, it was the last straw. She couldn’t do it anymore. Nine years were long enough. She still loved my dad, but she couldn’t love his unfinished dream anymore.
She was a woman on a mission. She started searching for a new house. The kids didn’t know what to think. We were confused. A new house sounded great, but what was going to happen to the dome? How could we just abandon it? We could see that dad still wanted to finish it, but he was worn down. Defeated. How could he keep asking her to sacrifice for his dream?
Mom found a house. A bigger house. A nicer house. A house with plumbing that worked. She was ready to go and be done with the dome forever.
But then something happened. My parents sat down and talked about the elephant in the room. They spoke of how they felt about the dome and all of the pain and sacrifice and suffering they had been through over the years. They both cried. A lot. At some point, they pulled the kids into the conversation and I watched my broken, beaten up parents unite again. What did we think? Was the dream was worth saving? Should we finish the dome or leave it behind in the dust?
The vote was unanimous. Years of sacrifice had turned Dad’s dream into our dream. We wanted him to keep working on it. We wanted him to finish it. We needed it. We would help.
For the next few months we prayed and planned and worked on the dome like we had never worked before. We hauled cinder blocks, mixed cement, and hung floor joist and sheet rock. Miracles happened. Friends and family came to help. Less than a month before my little brother was born, we moved out of the trailer house into the dome. It still wasn’t finished, but it was livable. And it had running water.
The dome taught me about true love. I learned from watching my parents. The romance of flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and fireworks are all nice, but they are not true love. They don’t prove anything. True love is a work in progress—just like the dome. It’s built a little bit at a time. It takes years. Sometimes it blows away and needs to be put back together. Struggles and trials tempt people to look for something newer, and bigger, and better. But my parents’ decision to stick with it and keep working on the dome changed me. It taught me what I wanted. It taught me who I was looking for. Eventually, it led me to my husband—a man whose dreams I believe in and who is the biggest and best supporter of my dreams. Every day we build our unfinished dreams together.
Thirty-five years later, the dome still isn’t finished. My parents moved to Phoenix in the early 90’s and kept the unfinished dome as a summer house. A few months ago I vocalized my feelings to them about the dome. I love it. I love them. I love what they have taught me about true love and I hope and pray that they will hang onto it and each other forever.
And finish it someday.