October 1, 2016Matrimonialities
Having just enjoyed a significant wedding anniversary, I find myself with a few thoughts about marriage.
Sometimes being married is like being part of a comedy team.
One time Gayle and I were at a war protest downtown, not actually a part of it, but we’d just gotten some burgers and decided to see what was going on. It was a big crowd and there were police all around. As we finished our munching Gayle inadvertently threw her wrappers in a mailbox, thinking it was a trash can. Certain that she was about to be arrested for defacing federal property, we scooted from the scene mighty quickly.
Then there was the time in Maine when I was working for a seminary and I was scheduled to attend a conference in Orlando. It was winter and I had no problem with the idea of spending a few days down in Florida. I got on the phone to book my plane ticket, and was surprised when the woman said that, as a special, they were offering two tickets for the price of one (Honest – I know that sounds unbelievable from today’s airline perspective). Having no colleagues who needed to go, I turned down the free ticket and hung up. Approximately one and a half seconds later I thought, I just turned down a chance for Gayle to go with me to Florida – for free. Needless to say a correction was made, the marriage was saved, and we had a great time.
There was another trip when we were living in Roscoe, Illinois, about fifteen miles north of Rockford. Two bus companies ran a shuttle from O’Hare to separate motels in Rockford. We pretty much had a routine where she’d know my flight times and which bus I’d be taking home and then pick me up at the motel. One night, however – thanks to the jet stream – I got in much earlier than planned. Rather than wait for my regular bus company, I was literally able to walk out the door and catch a bus from the other bus company which took me to the other motel and not the one Gayle was waiting at. I called home but, of course, she wasn’t there (this was in the pre-cellphone era). So I waited for her to get tired of waiting, which she eventually did and went back home, there, finally, to receive my call, thus prompting her second thirty mile roundtrip of the evening. My bad.
Not to be outdone, I had my own communication adventure. We’d spent the day up in Madison with our daughter (exactly one-hundred miles away). We left early in the evening and, upon arriving home, discovered that Gayle had forgotten her cellphone. For a realtor not to have her cellphone is like a surgeon not having her scalpel. Sweetheart that I am, I drove back to Madison immediately, retrieved the device, and drove back home. Her bad.
Of course the funniest words in any marriage, usually shouted up from the basement, are, “Honey! I think there’s a problem with —” Make a call – open checkbook.
Sometimes, however, that comedy team takes a dive.
There’s been sadness, too, as we buried four parents, a brother, a sister, and two nephews; as we endured job losses and stupid employers, and forced (though sometimes serendipitous) moves to other parts of the country; as the cars broke down and the plumbing sprang a leak and the furnace pooped out, as we encountered illnesses and accidents that reminded us both how tough we are and how frail.
In a time of high divorce rates people are fond of asking the long-time married what their “secret” is. It’s as though we’d purchased an extended warranty and they want to know if it’s still available. Sometimes people will say, “Well, we’ve never gone to bed angry.” I find that to be pretty stupid. It makes me want to say, “Well, then you’ve never actually been angry with each other.” My wife and I have gone to bed angry many times; in fact, on occasion we’ve carried that anger over for days until a hesitant apology leads to another hesitant apology and then things return to normal and I can say, “Honey, I’m glad you’ve finally seen the error of your ways” (“Honey? Honey? Really, that was a joke.”). Anger is as much the glue that holds a marriage together as happiness because it forces you to assess and re-assess your spouse and yourself and the reasons why she’s an idiot and you’re an idiot and maybe together you can put a stop to the idiocy.
As to “secrets,” though, I could only say that many years ago we both made a vow, a commitment, and we took that very seriously. Maybe in a time when all it takes is a click to move from one new thing to the next new thing, the whole idea of long-term anything just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Except that once in a while I’ll look over at her and recall all the things we’ve done, the accomplishments, the failures, the problems encountered and solved, the crap we’ve overcome, the amazing children we somehow managed to produce, and even the financial security to help us as we grow older that we’ve seemingly pulled out of thin air, just two people slogging it out together year after year after year – I look at all of that and I think:
Makes sense to me.
G.K.Wuori © 2016
Photoillustration by the author