"There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming
relationship, communion or company
than a good marriage."
I've had marriage on my mind a lot lately. My daughter tied the knot on the 10th, and I just got home from a wedding held in our church. I think it may be the first wedding I've attended there since I arrived back in Jax 17 years ago. (An aside: SEVENTEEN years ago? How did that happen? It's almost as long as I was gone.) Bit I have attended a lot of funerals. Many were for people who had a long-time spouse standing in the front pew, covered from head to toe in heartache. What I saw in pictures from my Weneki, however, was a tender, sweet willingness to join one life to another and skip down the sidewalk. I've never met, Weneki's Kurt, but let me just say this. In my book, any guy who holds his new bride's hand and skips down a city sidewalk is a keeper. Seriously folks, a guy who skips is a rare find.
I don't think there's any one secret as to how to stay married for a lifetime. Ask 100 people and you'll probably get 100 answers. But the subject of the priest's homily, "on this day I will marry my friend," rang true to me. He didn't say BFF, or "soul mate." Words that are pretty over-used if you ask me. He said simply and plainly "friend." And again, ask 100 people for a definition of friend and you'll get answers that run the gamut from pal to "I can't live without him/her." The truth is, having and being a spouse could, at any point in time be synonymous with each of those definitions.
So what the priest wished for this couple was the company, the encouragement, the confidence, and the love of a friend. For any couple embarking on a journey with a new husband or wife, these are pretty good qualities to have in your back pocket. You'll discover what works - and doesn't - along the way. Yet in each situation if you you remember to stick close, be a cheerleader, believe in your partner no matter what, and love through it all even if it hurts, I believe that while you might not be able to jump over every obstacle in the road, you'll find a joint solution as to how to skip around it.
In our church when someone is baptized the congregation is asked to make the same promises. I think, after watching today's wedding, that every few years married couples should have to re-commit to those vows, now covered in blood, sweat, tears and perhaps baby poo, they made in a moment of satin and lace.
I couldn't help but think of my own weddings. Yeh, sadly, that would be more than one. When I first got married, I was 18 years old, full of hopes and dreams and naive love that only teenagers can possess with such assurance. Somewhere around the 15 year mark what was supposed to last a lifetime began to break into pieces. It takes two to make a marriage and it takes two for one to break up. But I still carry a good bit of shame and responsibility for not "making" it work.
And then when I least expected it, I found someone else to share my life. We said, "I do" to each other in front of a can of peas boiling on the stove. And, as some long time blog followers may remember, Sweetie and I stood before a preacher, his wife, his son, the cleaning lady and God to say, "I do" again a few years later.
Back then we were more than a couple. We were a triangle. Dad was very much in the picture, and no matter which side of the triangle was up, there was always some kind of tension on the other sides. Despite a trial by fire, of all the things Sweetie is to me, he is most often a friend who stops whatever he's doing to hold me, or lays his book on his chest to listen, or says, "okay, let's do it," without even knowing what "it" is.
I forget that sometimes. Especially lately when I've been experiencing complicated or secondary grief. Fancy words that mean I'm a bundle of nerves and emotions and don't always see beyond my own nose. For example, yesterday we went to Walmart. He went one way and I went another. When he called to tell me he'd already checked out, I hurried to the cash register. (Hurry, late on a Friday afternoon could be a misnomer. There's no hurrying when the lines are long and there aren't enough checkers.) We hooked up at the car, piled our purchases into the trunk, listened to NPR on the way home, then he went to his office and I went to my chair. I'm afraid we've become "old married people" without even knowing it.
Later at dinner, Sweetie told me a story about how he helped pay for a woman's groceries. Not in a tooting his own horn kind of way, like I might. But with the nonchalance of someone who did something nice for a stranger because he felt it in his heart to do so. Even as I began to cry at his tenderness, I chastised him for not telling me in the car. Then I realized how modest he was about sharing the story at all. My heart burst open with love for the man I call husband. And I remembered how important it is to see my husband as he really is - kind, compassionate, humble - and not just as the person who shares a house with me. I thought about how much I like to be with people who do nice things with no expectations. How even my isolated world is full of blog friends who set this example for me every day. And I remembered how delightful it is to be on this journey with a man I am honored to call my friend.
Wishing for you a special friend,