Tag Archives: Marriage

To the Moon, Alice! (But Take Me With You)

12 Jan

Tomorrow marks my 33rd anniversary of marriage to a wonderful man. In previous years, I’ve used this event as a reason to wax over the ordinariness of our marriage or to tell you why my husband is my hero (much to his discomfort). By now, you pretty much know all there is to know about us . . . we’re not exactly Buzz-feed material.

However, I’m sad to say, there are still volumes to be written about double-digit anniversaries, because successful marriages are becoming increasingly rare in this fast-paced, me-first society. That is not to boast about “making it,” because, frankly, I sorta’ stumbled my way here. Given that I spend at least 70 percent of my time living in my own head and the rest judging with surprise that which has transpired while I was gone, I easily could have stormed away at many junctures along this merry adventure. I hung in there because I’m too lazy to cook and I can’t do math and Jerry is a master of both. I think he hung in there because I make him laugh—usually unintentionally.

Marriage is easy. All you have to do is say “I do,” sign the papers and ride off into the sunset. There ends the romance novel. Then comes love. Choosing to love, day after day, despite muddy footprints on clean floors, arguments on Christmas morning, less than angelic children, bounced checks, cars with mysterious dents, flannel pjs, temper tantrums, and all the other unromantic cogs that jam themselves into the wheel of bliss, now that’s the hard part.

I keep a reminder of what I believe is real love close to my heart. It came from an interview with the late Jessica Tandy and her husband Hume Cronyn, who were married 52 years. When asked the secret to a happy marriage, they replied in unison, “Frequent separations and partial deafness,” then smiled at each other in that all-knowing way. In case you missed it, the “real love” part is in the knowing look. I’ve always considered them the ideal couple. After Jessica passed, Hume compared living without her to being a quadriplegic.

My image of Jessica and Hume can only remain pristine as long as I never look too closely into their lives. I’ve learned enough about them to know they had place in their home called “the sulking room,” where one could retreat when they couldn’t stand another minute in the other’s company. I’m not saying a room like that would get much use in my own home, but I think I’d visit there a time or two.

mom-and-dad

Mom and Dad–A story with many twists and turns

So, how do we know what a good marriage should look like? My parents’ marriage lasted nearly 30 years, until my father passed away at 64. Those of us nine children who spent any amount of time with them in those final years would have called it an unhappy marriage, judging from the tears, the tiredness and the brokenness we witnessed. However, as I delve into old letters, I’m seeing traces of a different story, which I hope to share with my siblings one day soon. We’ll never know for sure, but, come on…nine kids?

nana-and-paw-50th

Never met a more gentle soul than my Old Poop of a Grandfather

My maternal grandparents were married almost 50 years. To her dying days, she called him the Old Poop. I never quite knew what to make of that, nor did I know for sure whether they were happy. They spent every minute of their 20-plus retirement years together. If ever a couple needed a sulking room…

Truth is, there is no perfect marriage, only imperfect people trying to live up to the ideals and values they’ve set for themselves and to honor their chosen mate as best they can with the imperfect tools they’ve been given. We can emulate our parents and grandparents, but without knowledge of what they endured off stage, it’s like reading every third page of a novel. Not the best how-to manual.

However, there is a perfect love. We see that in Jesus, who put others before himself and sacrificed for the greater good when the situation called for it. He showed us how to love, and, when we’re not being obstinate, it’s easy to see how loving His way can build up a marriage into the rewarding, blessed union God intended it to be. It’s something to strive for. I confess that I have, I occasionally, I often usually miss the mark, but I see my failures as blessing my husband with an opportunity to wield another useful marriage-building tool: forgiveness.

All kidding aside, I do take great delight in my marriage and my sweet husband, and I see him as a wonderful gift from God that means more to me with each passing year. I look forward to sharing with him the joys and trials that lie ahead, because I cannot imagine going through them with anyone else.

Jerry, you are my love, my rock, my steadfast friend, and my mathematician. And who knows, play your cards right and one day I might tell our grandchildren that you’re also my Old Poop. Here’s to 33 more…and a sulking room.

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Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life, and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. –Ecclesiastes 9:9

Chocolate Muscles and Frozen Peas: Love is Complicated

13 Jan

Thirty-two years ago, on a Friday the 13th, something wonderful happened when I agreed to drive over to the Justice of the Peace in South Kingstown, RI, with Jerry Fitzsimmons. How could I resist, considering his oh-so-captivating suggestion:

“Do you wanna?”

Why, yes, I did.

Not that it was a rash decision. We’d been engaged for a couple of years, but our plans for a traditional wedding had been repeatedly thwarted by military orders and a life-altering car accident. I wonder sometimes if we’d have gone through with the ceremony if someone had told us the date. That I wore black, the only dress I’d packed for our trip to my parents’ home, only added to the surreal situation, as did the attire of our witnesses, who stood at the opposite ends of decorum’s spectrum – one of my brothers looking spiffy in his Marine Corps dress blues, and the other, a carpenter just off a roofing job, slumped over the justice’s podium wearing dirty, ripped jeans and smelling as if he took his manual labor seriously.

Nevertheless, we took the plunge together and headed off into the world of…well, something a lot less romantic than the phrase “wedded bliss” should be allowed to connote.

In fact, our first years were more like weeded bliss. We each had to compromise more than we might have wanted to, and our compromises were usually less a result of gallantry than argument-induced concessions. He’s a practical, hard-working, methodical, technically proficient detail man and I’m a somewhat flighty, spontaneous, irresponsible, artistic dreamer.

Somehow we survived. We made it through the adjustment years, the parenting young children years, the “what if I missed something better out there” years, the “our children are screwed up and it’s all your fault” years, and even the (still ongoing, but let’s call it a phase) years of, “if she rips open one more bag of frozen peas like that I’m going to give her a frozen peas experience she’s not likely to forget.”

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I had no idea what love is when we married. In fact, if we had relied on love as we defined it in our early years to get us through, we’d never have made it. I formed my idea of love by reading silly romance novels in my 20s, and I think he formed his by watching shoot-‘em-up action movies. Love is not summed up that easily. Were it so, I could have stopped looking when I read, “Her heartbeat quickened and her pulse raced until she felt the crimson heat flush clear up to her cheek bones.” And he would be striving to become the hero in the final scene of a battle saga: “He hoisted the BGM-71 TOW missile launcher effortlessly onto his shoulder, grunting in her direction, ‘C’mere,’ and she followed dutifully, staring wide-eyed at his bulging muscles as if they were made of priceless chocolate.”

Nowadays, our action scene is a little less breath-taking, as in, “He’d just settled down with a nice cold beer in front of the TV to watch ‘Braveheart’ yet again, and she, in those dratted flannel pajamas, had just pulled out the nighttime sleep-aid-enhanced pain medicine and was heading upstairs to find her book, when they turned to each other and said in unison… ‘I thought YOU were picking Charles up from youth group!”

It’s the scene afterward that speaks volumes about love.

We finally got our church wedding on our 25th anniversary, and it was a special moment that solidified, but didn’t change what we have. Our relationship still isn’t perfect. Most likely, I will always tear little gnaw-holes in the frozen peas bag, holes just big enough for eight or nine peas to escape at a time, and he will always tease the cat just as it curls up to snooze on my lap, forcing me to give him that look. I will always cry when I’m tired, and he will spend the rest of his life trying to figure out whether to try to hold me or let me cry it out. (What? Help him figure it out? Are you nuts? Where’s the fun in that?)

RosenJer

A glimpse of the younger, bolder, tougher, but not-so-wise years.

You see, what makes our relationship work is that we’ve become as close as two friends can be without some strange and awkward surgical procedure, and we’ve learned so much about each other that we can’t imagine being with anyone else. We see each other as a gift from God and value that gift as more precious than gold. Who else but he would know I’d get more joy out of the pair of purple “porcupine” socks I found in my stocking this Christmas than any amount of sparkling jewelry? And my joy comes from knowing that, not only does he “get” me, but if I said, even once, that I wanted the sparkling jewelry, he would have moved heaven and earth to get me some.

Because love is not about things, or feelings, or what sort of wedding ceremony binds a couple, or about always being right, or ever being right, for that matter. After 32 years I’m beginning to understand, love is about striving for second place. If I put him first, and he puts me first, well now, we just might make it another 32 years.

Besides, I’ve improved our chances by replacing his copy of “Braveheart” with “Pride and Prejudice.” Next time I cry, he can use that to figure me out…

I love you Jerry. You will always be my hero.

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“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  – 1 John 4:12