Thursday, February 14, 2013
Morning Thanks--Valentine's Day
Long ago, I wrote a feature story on a woman who'd spent most of her life as a stenographer in courtrooms where ex-lovers ripped each other apart in divorce proceedings. That was 1980 or so, and I'd been married only eight years; but I swore, at the time, that I knew what that woman meant when she told me that as she hammered those keys she'd be telling herself that it was plain ridiculous those husbands and wives had to split. After all, the horrors they'd recount weren't a whole lot worse than the trials and tribs she'd gone through herself in her own marriage--or those any married person did, for pete's sake, she said.
That line struck me as brutal in its honesty, so revealing that I wondered if she'd actually let me say it in the piece I wrote for the magazine. She did, which is probably why she made a good subject in the first place.
I once wrote another story on a couple from Brazil who'd come to Christ by way of a radio ministry. Before they were Christians, they told me, they fought like cats and dogs. In fiery Brazilian fashion, she explained how one angry night she'd simply gone to the cupboard, pulled out every plate and cup, and smashed them, one by one, up against the kitchen wall.
They stayed together, and I'm happy to report that while my wife and I no longer have the dishes we had when we were first married, if they're around at all they're not shattered--at least not by our hands. It never got that bad.
I never saw my parents fight. My sisters claim they did, although their memories of Mom and Dad's bickering are remarkably scant. Not until they were really old did I ever think my parents were in any way unmerciful to each other, although my mother was legendarily dependent, my father a world-class enabler, IMHO.
But if some Las Vegas type had made book on the viability of our marriage four decades ago, when we got married in a fever right down the road in a church we now quite regularly attend, the odds would have made betting idiotic, both of us raised in intact households where divorce was akin to a ticket to hell, both of us life-long church folks, educated to believe that this world belonged to God.
But exceptions prove the rule, and divorce happens. Our first experience happened just three years after we were married, when a good buddy, a fellow teacher, told us he was leaving his wife for a woman he taught with, a woman who, he said, he simply couldn't live without. Shit happens, often enough close to home.
It's ironic, I suppose, that Valentine's Day is what it is because of death. Long ago, a priest named Valentine lost his head for wedding lovers who wanted to get hitched despite a royal prohibition against marriage Maybe it isn't odd or ironic--maybe death will always champion lovers. Think Romeo and Juliet.
Facebook will be goofy with over-the-top protestations today, I'm sure. I think I'll stay away. More than a decade ago, in a church where people aired their prayer requests, a man my age quite regularly stood up to say how blame thankful he was for his loving wife, who did this or that or the other wonderful thing. "Joys and concerns" that ceremony was called, and his were joys. But we should have been concerned. Not long after, he climbed in an 18-wheeler and left forever.
We're forty years into our marriage, my wife and I, and, honestly, we have no harrowing tales. Life is good. In fact, we're building a house, something neither of us ever, ever imagined doing. We're actually building a house.
But long, long ago, the Lord in his infinite mercy and love determined to keep us together, and in love; and this day, this St. Valentine's Day, the day the priest lost his head, my morning thanks really goes without saying but I will anyway: I'm thankful that the two of us still rise joyfully to meet the morning, happy with that first cup of coffee, and blessed, truly, that we've never done much at all but love each other.
After forty years, we're actually building a house, but we long ago had a home.