The Long Road

The Happy Couple

For a very long time now, when the conversation turns to relationships, people younger than I always marvel at how young I was when I got married.  The questioners are inevitably thirty-somethings who live in the city and are unattached and thinking their having the time of their lives, gallivanting around from bar to bar, ending at one filled with college kids with their hats turned backwards wearing t-shirts that were last laundered by the factory before they were sold.  Good times.

“You were twenty-three when you got married?!”

Yes, I was. But the truth of the matter is that we met on June 16, 1984, had our first date on June 30th and had essentially agreed to get married by September–when  I had just turned twenty-two.  So think about that kids–23 and we knew each other for about four months and we had a done deal.

It was a whirlwind.  A very fast and deep friendship developed instantly, then it was off to the races.  A fourth of July weekend on her high school friend’s boat, an August introduction to her entire family–still one of the loudest gatherings of 13 people I’ve ever attended–then a September trip to see mine.  My father hadn’t been in her presence for more than a couple of hours when I told him that I was finished looking.  This was it.  It wasn’t going to get any better than this.  I had found her.  He understood.

There was magic in her eyes and in her laugh. She committed the grave mistake of laughing at things I found funny, which just encouraged me (still does).  I think our fate was sealed when we laughed together at lunch one day about the use of “Morning Has Broken” in church, only to see it on a video tape they showed us in training class that afternoon. Hilarity ensued.  The two of us, sitting across the room from each other made fools of ourselves trying to stifle our laughter.  Only the two of us were in on the joke.  Our joke.

No matter who was in the room, she was the most interesting person I could find to talk to.  And on one very warm, humid July day in 1986, she agreed to be my wife.  To this day it was the greatest and most humbling thing that’s ever happened to me.  Everything that’s followed it has paled in comparison.

I remind my young friends that this is not a contest to see who can hold out the longest.  You’re lucky in life if you can find one person with whom you want to spend the rest of your days and you’re a fool if you let that person walk away from you simply because you’re “not ready”.  Life is too short and loneliness is too tough.  Your aim is to “be ready”, because sometimes the best things come to you without warning.

. . .

Our lives since then have been much like the Kennedy expressway.  Smooth and straight for stretches, then curvy and full of potholes that come upon you without warning.  Followed by orange construction cones as far as the eye can see as the highway gets repaired and smoothed out.  Some times you can speed through it and other times it seems like it takes days to make it to the destination.  But the road never closes and there’s always a path through it, no matter how bad the accident is.

There’s no way to do justice to all that we’ve been through together.  The kids.  The victories large and small, the inconveniences, and mild tragedies.  Some self-imposed, others thrust upon us.  All done together–the only way I could have ever survived it.  There is still magic in her eyes and in her laughter.  It is the elixir of my life.

Those that know me understand that there’s no higher compliment to be paid to her than to say that she has successfully endured me and my nonsense for these last twenty-five years.  All of it with her dignity and sense of humor largely intact.  What has appeared on these pages doesn’t even get you to the Base Camp of the Everest of the challenges I present and that she has managed with such aplomb.

. . .

Neither of us suffer campiness lightly.  As noted above, it’s one of the common traits that bind us together.   I found the first stanza of the poem below a while ago and only recently realized that it was part of a much longer piece by Roy Croft.  I understand it’s one of those things that people have read at their weddings along with the “clanging gong” letter from St. Peter.  Be that as it may, it reflects my feelings of love and gratitude better than I could myself.

Thanks, Midge.  I love you.  Happy Anniversary.

I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.

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