Hello, HOPESpotters! It has been awhile. I know I’ve been busy, just as you are, I am sure. There have been many blogs I’ve started and many things I have wanted to say, but I haven’t had the time to give adequate thought to the words I’d like to publish. And boy oh boy, there’s a lot to talk about these days and I can’t think of a time when there has been a greater need for HOPE.
Today I write solely in honor of my Mom and Dad because today is their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Per my parents’ wishes, there is no formal celebration. They are humble people. My family and my sister’s family will be honoring my parents when we go on our annual beach vacation to Hilton Head with some things I cannot mention yet.
My Mom and Dad were married July 9, 1966. Friends in high school that became a couple in college, the bride and groom were 23 and 22, respectively, when they tied the knot. As my sister said today on Facebook, “what they didn’t know that day could fill oceans, but thankfully, they were quick studies.” And for that Katie, her children, my children, and I are grateful.
Let me be clear: if I wrote a whole blog to published for the Internet at large about the ins and outs of my parents 50+ year relationship, I wouldn’t likely find a seat at Thanksgiving dinner. We are private in that way. There are things, however, that this milestone inspires me to share.
I have said in the past, “..I said, I do. Priest didn’t let me finish. I should’ve said ‘ I do not have a clue what I’m in for. Marriage is highs and lows, imperfections and tolerance, glee and grit. Starting a family is a miracle like inventing fire: one part “wow” one part “what did we just do?”
The vows are the thing that fascinate me about weddings and marriage. Weddings are such beautiful, happy events and the vows are, most often, seemingly taken for granted. Knowing what I know now, and I can only imagine what my parents know now, I have somewhat a different vision for weddings: bride in mouth guard, groom in cup, priest in referee gear… “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to see if these two have any clue what they are getting into and are subsequently up for it.”
I am so blessed to have parents, and grandparents, that have gone the distance. I am painfully aware it isn’t easy and to those reading who are divorced, you also have my admiration. Sometimes I just muse, what if weddings vows were more specific:
For better or worse.. Kids, you’re gonna disagree- on houses, discipline, friends, vacation destinations. Your dog will die. Your toilet will overflow before your son’s First Communion party. There might be more worse than better. Endure.
For richer or for poorer… Guess what? The economy, the stock market, luck -all might work against you. Every bride in America takes this vow with beautiful tear filled doe eyes thinking there is no level of poorer that would change her love for her groom. Unfortunately, poor hurts. And hungry sucks.
In sickness and in health… This one. Perhaps brides and grooms should be hooked to polygraphs when they make this vow. When you're young and beautiful, this one seems irrelevant. Until it becomes painfully relevant. Imagine the priest or rabbi or whatever officiant sitting the beautiful youngsters down and saying, “Best case scenario you two will grow old together and one will die before the other and it will be devastating. OR one of you could get sick, maybe each of you and it is up to the other to take care. Real care. Walking to bathroom. Picking up from falls. Smelling poop. Assessing memory. ALL. OF. IT.” And not all sickness is terminal - sometimes this vow is just a gut check for a couple asking if they can tolerate the sound of each others vomit or the moans of each other's pain. Sickness and health, to me, probably because of my profession and life experience is the biggity biggest vow.
To love and to cherish… Yup. You forgot this one, too, right? This one gets to the crux of longevity, in my opinion. Love and cherish is flowery. Close your eyes and think about three couples right now. Do they love and CHERISH? Is laundry on the floor an abandonment of cherishing? Harsh words? Staying married is hard - maintaining cherishing is…. Is… Is… Unusual. For me, maintaining cherish in the life of 2016 is rare and difficult. Perhaps, many of us need the reminder that this virtue was part of the vows.
Finally, and essentially, the “from this day forward until death do us part”. How? HOW? Do twenty early year olds make this vow? In fact, how does anyone until you’ve seen that death part? Imagine again the wedding officiant looking into the eyes of the beautiful young bride and groom and getting them to honestly buy into nursing the other to death??? As this blog is in honor of my healthy and younger than biological age Mom and Dad, I am not going to dwell on this vow. It speaks for itself. I will only say I recently had the privilege of caring for a 68 year old man and his wife, to whom I’d become very fond. I was with them as he was moved into the hospital bed that he would inevitably die in within days. I won’t forget them clinging to each other, saddened by their defeat by cancer, and saying, “I’ll find you again. We found each other here. I’ll find you again.” So, death do us part? For how long, I say..
I hate that it is so easy for me to point out the ‘bad vows’ because, in fairness, that hasn’t been my life experience. Marriage can also be better, richer, healthier. Couples that work hard can enjoy together first steps, milestones, stolen time away, and comfort in each other's embrace. I have been truly blessed to see parents and grandparents who endured trouble, cancer, disappointment, changes and come out with love. This perserverance is what I hope for my sons because I am certain that there isn't anything I can say same to them in the presence of hot romantic love that will resonate with any form of relevance.
The purpose of my dissection of the marriage vows in light of my parents’ 50th is this: life and work have underscored for me how hard marriage can really be. I am really grateful to have been raised by two people who made the rounds on the up and downsides of each vow and found a way to stay together. The Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind…” And who am I to question the Bible? For me, growing up with my Mom and Dad, I learned that love IS, in fact, patient; love is tolerant; love is enduring and not always pretty, BUT love ultimately is coming together to celebrate the family you created and forgiving the imperfections of fate that you had to endure.
Mom and Dad, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in a public celebration of your anniversary. I just think, along with Katie, that it needs to be said: it wasn’t easy or pretty, but we remember it as also happy and fun and safe. There has been constant and unconditional support. Thank you. We love you. Congratulations for honoring the hardest of vows for 50 years.
Here’s to marriage and all that comes with it. Here’s to love. And here’s to longevity and its example.