Sorry to disappoint everyone who popped over to read Friday’s Odds & Ends, but today is our wedding anniversary. I thought readers might enjoy finding out what has kept us together for 45 years. The following is another excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. While most of that book is humorous, now and then I get serious about families and the ties that bind. Enjoy….
The year we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary was special to me because that was the year I had spent exactly half of my life married to Carl. Sometimes I had a hard time remembering what my life was before this marriage. Fragments of memory would come back in little flashes, like quick freeze frames, but they seemed to have less to do with who I was then, than what began on our wedding day.
I can vividly remember the fantasy I had about us in those early years. We would be the perfect couple. Have perfect children. A perfect home. I would become a rich and famous author, which would put us in the public spotlight, and people all over the world would marvel about how great we were.
When I fantasize, I don’t fool around.
Obviously, the fantasy was just that, but reality hasn’t been all that disappointing. We have longevity to our relationship and that is noteworthy. We have a great family.
Who wants perfect, anyway?
We did more than survive those first 22 years – and the years since. We lived and loved and laughed and cried and grew together.
In light of that accomplishment, I wonder if there is some kind of secret to it all, and after careful consideration, I think the answer is “yes” and “no” and “maybe.”
Yes, because when we married Carl and I made a commitment to each other. A commitment we decided to honor even when things got rough. A commitment that kept us in the same house even when we couldn’t stand being in the same room together. And a commitment that made us dig in and work to make things better when it looked like it was all falling apart.
No, because the secret isn’t really a secret. Every married couple voices the same vow on their wedding day and we are not the only ones who continue to honor it.
Yet, maybe there is some magic to our particular blend of single-mindedness and determination. What used to be his strength and my strength became our strength and kept us from ever considering an alternative. For the most part, it also kept us from evaluating our relationship according to modern standards. We never had “his and her” towels or “his and her” rights and responsibilities. When we’ve found ourselves asking, “What am I getting out of this relationship?” the answer usually becomes “what am I giving?” And we’ve tried to focus on acceptance and understanding instead of expecting and demanding.
Of course, we haven’t always lived out those ideals. But ideals are a lot like virtue. Just because a person has the virtue of patience doesn’t mean she can’t scream now and then.
One of the articles I wrote for a national magazine, Marriage & Family Living, dealt with staying committed in a marriage. I decided to ask some dear friends who were like foster parents to me, to share the secret of their 50 + years together. He considered my question for a moment then said, “Well, the way I see it. It’s like getting into a boat together to cross the lake. As long as you are both paddling with the same effort, you will get across to the other side.”
“And if one of those someones can’t row anymore?”
“Then the other person has to row harder.”