Today is our anniversary, 63rd. I have to confess that Elizabeth had to remind me: the only dates I remember are Christmas, the Fourth of July (which usually happens on 7/4)—though I don’t think of myself either as Saved or as especially patriotic,—and anything where stuff is likely to be closed. Anything else, I try, but it rarely makes any impact on my work habits. Today, though, I thought, “I could write about that.”
We were formally married the following August, but the commitment to a life together was made on this date—or something near it, as we really weren’t thinking about the calendar at that point in time. We had met sitting across the aisle in stage lighting class, both noticing that we laughed at the prof’s deadpan jokes and soon after collaborating—I as director, Elizabeth as actress and co-translator—in a scene that stunned the directing class. That led to a number of dates and walks by the lake and at last—this being the days of restricted dorms—to climbing into the back seat of a chilly, decrepit car.
I was 19, EF was 20, and suddenly we’re 82 and 83, and all we really know for sure is that that clamber into the back seat was a pretty good idea. Sometimes following instinct has a result that works. I recently wrote a flash fiction based on a wedding we attended, where the bride processing down the aisle burst into unstoppable laughter. I have no idea what struck her funny, but I speculated in the fiction that it was every crisis we’ve had in our marriage together—and lived through them.
To my mind, the essential thing in marriage is Heinlein’s definition of love: that the happiness of your mate is essential to your own. That bypasses all traditional rules and vows, yet imposes a huge imperative. And a risk: that your mate plays a charade to keep you happy. Which imposes an equally challenging need for both parties: honesty.
But anything I can say about marriage, I won’t. That sounds like advice, and the only advice I can offer with certainty is to live from day to day. Which will happen whatever I say. The godawful thing about advice are the moments that rise to contradict it, and in marriage that happens with the added effect that there’s “something wrong.” Which indeed there may be.
Probably no different than diplomatic relations between nations or political relations between diverse parts of local population. The sports metaphor rules: keeping score. But in other contested issues, you can blame the ref, you can blame critical injuries, you can blame the left tackle who comes through the line like a tank, and your instinct militates against empathy with the team you’re against. Marriage requires the opposite.
So we’ll find a way to celebrate, and continue on our path to the unknown future. The path has calla lillies along both sides, and the blossoms persist.