October 2, 2010
Falling in love is an amazing thing. The warmth of romance, how your heart pounds and breath quickens. How you see them out of the corner of your eye and something inside you aches a little and you find yourself subtly leaning toward them. How they make the rough parts of you softer and sharpen the parts that need tuning and honing. Iron sharpens iron. Falling in love is an amazing thing.
Staying in love… Is an art form. Falling is an act of gravity, staying is a practiced skill, a considered decision, a choice. It is not emotion or feeling. Waking up next to the person who has stolen every single inch of sheet and cover, who leaves toothpaste in the sink and socks on the floor. Kissing them when you are angry, hugging them when you are hurt…. because they are the one who hurt you. That is staying.
I read a lot. And by a lot, I mean that I have on file a saved list of many of the books that I have read and a short few sentences about each book. It spans 56 pages. Some of it was written as a compilation during my college years for my degree. Some of it grew afterwards just because I love to read. I will read almost anything. I have read the Bhagavad Gita, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War;” Sein und Zeit by Martin Heideggar; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; on and on. The one genre I lack on my reading list in almost it’s entirety, unless it is listed as classic literature (and therefore a requirement for my degree)… romance. I hate them. I find them cloying and simplistic, rife with over sentimentality. Lacking in depth. Feelings, I’m not a great fan of them. I have them, don’t get me wrong. But expressing them…. not so good at it.
In Linguistic analysis and composition class, we were required to pick the genre that we most disliked. Being a not entirely stupid person, I saw where this was going, so I lied and said, “historical biography” my room mate at the time, ratted me out, something I am loathe to forgive her for! So I was forced to write a 25,000 word essay on romance. I think it took about 10 years off my life and made me seriously consider life in a convent! (And I’m not Catholic!). I did it, I got a passing grade. I wouldn’t do it again. I probably made some sort of under-my-breath vow to never write about romance ever again.
And yet… here I am…
Webster’s dictionary says that romance means: the feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.
That’s nice. Kinda bleh in my mind. It doesn’t move me. I know, that’s so sad right? You know what DOES move me?
Shortly before graduating college the same professor who tortured me with having to write that essay on romance was at the mall one evening. He had been shopping. I dont remember what I was there for. I didn’t go often, I don’t enjoy random shopping. He was there with his wife, they were elderly, had married very young and been married for 45 years at the time. His wife’s name was Ruth and she had Alzheimer’s. They were relaxing at the mall when Dr. Robinson saw something in a store window and stepped briefly inside to take a closer look. He said he was only gone for a few seconds he thought. When he came out, Ruth was gone. I was walking one direction, he was standing talking to a police officer. I saw him and something inside me tightened. I went over to him and when he recognized my face, he reached for me and clung to me. I do not mean that he just held my hand. He clung to me. I am not the kind of person that people normally cling to. I am not blessed with beauty or grace or even great sensitivity. I am by all purposes and evidences more ordinary than anyone you will ever forget. Here was a man of great import, in charge of my success in my future degree. He held the keys to many doors and the attention of college board members, and powerful and wealthy donors to the literary degree program. He was a force. And at that very moment he was alone and terrified. He shook and gripped my arm so much that I remember seeing bruises in the following days. I wish they had never faded. I stood with him, leaning into him, at a total loss as to what to do or how to help.
From across the mall isle out of another store, Ruth came walking. She had no idea where she was or that her wandering had caused such immense pain and fear. Dr. Robinson saw her first and racing up to her he wrapped her in his arms. I heard him whispering to her and I stepped away from them. It felt voyeuristic to be there and overhear. It was a private moment somehow, there in the middle of a throng of passing people. I heard a part of what he murmured to her and it was so personal, I will not even write it. I felt somehow like I had been allowed to see something very painful and almost perfect. You could tell by the look on her face that she had no notion of the turmoil her small momentary absence had caused. You could see through his tears that this was no small romance, this was an epic love story. Stolen from her mind, it was now a one-sided courtship, love without acknowledgement or understanding. Robbed of her remembrance of him, it only deepened his great and overpowering commitment to her.
They were no longer the sleek young couple dressed to the nines in tux and gown with perfect makeup and polished nails. No flowers or streamers. No batting eye lashes and sly smiles.
Every crease, every line in their faces were the shared experiences of 45 years of good times and bad. Every wrinkle, every arthritic joint, the thinning hair and dentures, the aches and pains and corrective shoes. None of it would have made a good romance novel. But all of it made a good life. A life with a forever friend. A commitment. A vow. A promise.
A wedding is a beautiful thing. A time for celebration and joy. It is a moment in time. But a marriage… a marriage is a covenant. A bond. An indenture. A willingness to submit for the betterment of the other. A marriage is not 50/50. A marriage is 100/100.
In the Jewish tradition the vows during the exchanging of the rings are: “Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring.”
Consecrated. To be declared holy and set apart. Dedicated one to the other.
My prayer for you, that God be ever the center pillar of your lives together. May he grant you just enough troubled water to make you reach for each other in hard times, and to more fully appreciate each other’s unique design in His plan. To forever rest in the light and joy of seeing love in each other’s eyes in and through the good times and the hard. May He keep you protected in mind and body and spirit. May he fill you and use you. Like the alabaster jar, broken and spilled out, may your lives be the aroma that fills the room around you.
Happy Anniversary Mark and Miranda.