Monday, a man from the local community stopped by my office to ask my advice about caring for some photos he found in his late wife's...
Now I stopped counting after 15 minutes, but it took several more minutes before Mr. Cook recovered his voice and resumed speaking, apologizing because it "had only been a month" since her death.
The day Will and I left for Washington, I was with a group of senior citizens on an outing to historical places in West TN. At one stop, several people got out of the bus but I did not, nor did the two couples in front of me. The two women were exchanging news of people they had gone to college with (cause everyone, just everyone, in this town goes to one college). Mrs. R mentioned one man, and how he had finally retired from his second career at the age of 80. Mrs. M asked Mrs. R if he and his wife "were still together." Only half listening, that statement jerked back my full attention. What would an 80 year old man accomplish by getting a divorce? Surely at 80 you would know to stay single if you couldn't pick the right person to live your life with! 80 years ago, the divorce rate was much lower than it is today. Our generation may be spoiled for lifelong marriage by the example of our peers and our parents, but really? He's 80?!
Is his wife still living? That was what Mrs. M meant by "still together."
After 38 years, my folks are "still together" both in the modern and antique sense. They have their ups and downs. Kids, job losses, chronic health conditions, financial burdens aside, they are still together. I've been using the expression "human endeavor is bound to fail" a lot lately. While it's true that my folks' marriage isn't perfect, it hasn't failed. Maybe one function of marriage is to show that despite human endeavor's proclivity for accidents, obstacles and imperfections, it doesn't have to fail. Maybe marriage can be good for things not related to marriage at all. Maybe this is the one place where we are supposed to see that it is possible to accomplish most things. Because my folks' marriage can last 38 years, then I can do the job I was hired to do. If Mom and Dad can stick it out this long, then I can tough it out too, in my job, my place of residence, my church, my financial situation, my relationships.
I reject the idea that this encourages or fosters a spirit of passivity or mediocrity. Accepting a less-than-best partner or fostering a sense of submission to what is an untenable situation is misguided and ought to be avoided. You fight for a marriage because you believe, on the atomic level, in the person you took those vows with. Failure is off the table. It just means I will work a little harder. To undertake serious things less lightly. And to stand ready to reap enormous blessings and to be part of a blessing for someone else. I want to marry, but more importantly, I want my life to stand for what marriage means.
A little anniversary present for Mom & Dad: At their wedding, my grandparents refused to let Mom have an Elvis song in the wedding. Something about "the sobriety of the event." So here it is Mom, 38 years later.