Just over a Year to Fifty: The Fun and Importance of Keeping Conversation, Kissing, Friendship and Love Alive in Marriage.

Last Sunday, we woke up to snow.  The first true day of winter came just  4 days earlier after an unseasonably warm November and December. There were high winds, blowing snow and it was damn cold.  But on Sunday, the snow was steady, coming down like heavy rain one minute, changing to a slow and gentle flow of snowflakes from the gloomy grey sky the next.   Albeit not my favorite season, I love winter days when it snows endlessly, especially if I have nowhere to go and nothing important to do.  It’s a nice alternative to the usual winter days when you have to be out in the bitter cold, shoveling your driveway and sidewalk, scraping your car and generally sitting upright and hyper alert while driving about town.  After being born and raised for twenty years in a tropical climate, I have seen twenty seven winters now; twenty nine if you count the two I spent at Syracuse University, and though I have lived abroad longer than I have in the land of my birth, I am, as calypsonian David Rudder puts it, “Trini to the bone”. I suppose you could say I have been able to embrace my adopted home and embrace it’s wintry climate by actually learning to do the fun things in winter mostly due to joining my kids and husband in snowball fights,  tobogganing , skiing, snowboarding, skating and hockey and realizing that when you make an effort to enjoy it, winter can sometimes go by before you know it.

 

It’s easy to stay in bed a little longer on a snowy morning, jumping out just long enough to brush your teeth so that kissing is pleasant and enjoyable.  Let’s face it, they only kiss first thing in the morning in movies.  It was one of those Sunday mornings that we have referred to as “Lazy Day” chez nous and it is how we “take Sunday back”.  Mornings like these usually start with me rolling over, bidding Tom good morning and asking him a single question that would lead to an all out, in depth discussion which would continue into our walk with our dog and a drive to our favorite coffee shop for our Sunday morning treat.  The question that morning was  “Tom, what scares you?”  to which he replied in his uber deep morning voice with the slightly oh-here-she-goes-this-is-going-to-be-a-long-one tone of voice, “Spiders and heights”.

Staring out the window at the snow, his long arm wrapped around me, we talked about why, in spite of his fear of heights he rode crazy roller coasters and parachuted out of a perfectly good airplane and how I don’t understand why a man who stands 6 feet 2 and 195 needs reams of paper towel to kill a spider the size of his index finger print.  He had no cool or concrete answer for the spider thing but as it turns out, the parachuting and crazy rides were some of the ways he faced his fears.  We chatted and segued from one topic to the next.   Unknowingly, fingers interlaced, my chin on his shoulder, we talked about the Hadron Collider, our theories about inoculation,  antibiotics and the constant evolution of the human species. Before we knew it, legs were no longer woven and we were out of the comfort of our bed, dressed and outside walking hand in hand in the snow up to the trail where we would throw the ball for the dog, pausing for a moment to take a look at and chuckle at her red toss toy that was still stuck up in the pine tree in spite of that windy Wednesday.  We chatted about how incredibly brilliant Adam is and how hard it must be for him to have to do some of the things he does because we live in a society that is filled with people mostly comfortable thinking and living inside the proverbial box. It was then we vowed again to give him the happiest life we possibly could and to make him as independent as possible without squashing who he is.  We then turned our attention to Logan and voiced how pleased were at his maturity, astute and insightful nature, in spite of his bouts of  male goofiness and periodic brain lapses that make us shake our heads.  We spoke of cave men, the first true scientists and inventors and that perhaps the development and utilization of verbal language and body language is why we have the emotion of love.  We talked about God, the abuse of religion and the irony of religious wars and how disappointing it was to occasionally discover how many people who were the pillars of their churches were actually the most corrupt human beings around.  Climbing in to the car, the conversation became about the balance of science and religion in our lives;  he, a non-worshiper continuing to maintain an open-mindedness about the possibility of the existence of a being or force such as God because there were still some things science could not explain and an existence of God, in his opinion could not be disproved.  And then there was me, someone born and raised at home and at school in the church, with a personal evolved opinion about the way I view my religion, God, science and fact.  I talked about the struggles I face navigating our life in light of what I had been taught about God, my occasional skepticism and the disappointment I feel when I come out of mass having been subjected to a “catholight” version of a sermon that often leaves me with nothing to draw from and apply to my life (I have been waiting to be moved by a sermon for about 4 years).   Yet though tried, tested and challenged in life like everyone else, I cannot and will not let go of my religion even in the times when I seem to have stronger hope than I do faith.  A sharp left turn of the wheel, I lean into him and kiss him on the cheek like I always do and he smiles as he does every time, patting me on the thigh saying “Elephant shoes” – this phrase when mimed looks like you are saying “I love you”.  That kind of moment to me. is still as wonderful as it was the first time we faced each other and said it at the end of the aisle on our wedding day, long past everyone’s view and it was silly and it was ours.

Our conversation came to a natural end when he descended into the basement to sit in front of his computer and  I headed to the kitchen table so I could stare at the snow through the glass sliding door while I jotted my thoughts on all this.  It snowed and snowed that day, stopping late at night.  It was cold  but we were toasty in our house, resting in our beds, waiting for sleep to overcome our minds and shut our bodies down before we had to welcome a new day and week.  It was a wonderful snowy Sunday and I was glad we decided to “take it back”.  To me, there is nothing more wonderful than chatting with someone you not only love to be with, but someone you actually connect with and can engage in intriguing and interesting conversations with and never grow bored of their company or what they have to say.

My marriage is not perfect; no marriage is but we are happily married (yes, I checked in with him before I typed this).  Marriage is hard work and requires a lot of time, patience, understanding, respect and devotion from both partners. It’s recognizing when you have hurt the other and apologizing and trying not to do it again.  It’s complimenting the other person randomly, lifting their spirits whether they need you to or not, holding hands, massaging shoulders, kissing, touching, making love to them and of course simply telling them you love them.  I didn’t get married to be unhappy.  I love spending time with my husband.  I love that he still reaches for and holds my hand and that we kiss… a lot.  My mother told me once that my grandmother told her in a few quite subtle words that keeping the love alive in bed is also a main ingredient when making a successful marriage and I certainly think my grandmother had given some sage advice.  There is nothing stale or outdated or wrong about honoring the body of the person you love.  Sure we all get older, change shape and size but that doesn’t mean we stop making love.  Think of all those healthy, positive endorphins!  Sex is certainly not just for the young or the promiscuous, or the unfaithful…I’m just saying…don’t let love making die.  Life is too short to ignore it and it is also too short to not say “I love you” as much as you can.

I mentioned before, I asked Tom what scared him, the snowy, conversation laden Sunday morning.  I told him I had many fears but my biggest fear which I have no real control over is, not growing old with him and not being able to do all that we would love to share together.  I want us to be here to see our sons find their niche but based on the foundation we have laid, they will (even headstrong Mr. Adam).  Beyond our children, I want to continue to grow the relationship I have with their father; to see the way we change as time goes on.  Right now, and I try to live mostly in the now, it is a wonderful privilege to have someone to listen to and who listens to me.  It’s a pleasure to take care of and be cared for by the person who promised to do so 19 years ago and it is an honour to continue that walk down the aisle hand in hand along what has become an unsteady and winding aisle of life, just as we promised we would in front of 22 of our family members and friends.

I am no expert on marriage.  I’ve gotten it wrong many times over the years.  I have frustrated him as much as he has frustrated me and of course we would.  We are two very different people from two very different families and backgrounds who have chosen to live under the same room AND raise children together.  Are there days when we both wonder if we chose not to marry? Are there days when we want to rip each other’s heads off or run around screaming in sheer frustration at the other person? Hell, yeah!  I remember this foolish couple who sat in my living room years ago among other friends who declared that they never, ever ever, EVER fought.  That they were such good friends there were never any raised voices, differences of opinion, sharp tones or words because they were buddies!  Buddies, Buddies BUDDIES! Best, best friends who never got on each other’s nerves.   Well, ran into them a few years later, a couple of kids later and it turned out that Mr. and Mrs “buddies”  were divorced and not as civil and they could be.  She was all about the kids and he drifted into a corner and disappeared and then got distracted and well … you can put the pieces together from all this.  I know I have a rather colourful personality and disposition. Passionate and impatient are a couple words that describe me.  Tom is patient and sometimes almost too patient.  He is quiet with a temper that one sees maybe once a year but it’s there.  He is strong where I am forceful and we boost and rein in each other as needed and over the years the relationship has been molded to suit each stage of our evolution as husband and wife; father and mother.  We are all aware that  some male humans have that basic animal instinct to spread as much seed as possible and some female humans have that other basic instinct that dictates the “okay I got my babies, thank you very much – off you go- to hell with you” thing going on sometimes, but we have to remember we are more evolved than that and that we certainly rise above cheating or neglecting the other partner’s need for attention and love.

I once had a conversation with another woman about being married and I told her if ever my husband and I have one of those “stinger” fights, one of the ways we mend is to remember why we got together in the first place and see if that plus all that we have built together is worth losing over whatever it is we lock horns over.  She told me (and I have heard this before from other women and men) when she got married, it was what everyone she knew was doing and so she did.  Based on this statement, do we conclude that some people are just insecure?  Are some people lemmings? ( Oh look, my friends are jumping over a cliff, so I may as well ).  Why would you marry someone you have nagging questions about in your head?  Of course you can never truly say without a doubt, this is the perfect person for me.  No one is perfect but if you don’t feel love for and from a person, why would you make such a commitment that will make you live a life trapped in misery living with a man who has become a roommate or a marriage that will only end in divorce?  Mind you, if the damn thing is dead, set each other free and end it already!  No one is doing anyone any favors  (especially the kids) by putting up with a marriage.  As a woman raising men, I say it is the responsibility of parents to raise the most respectful and honorable men we could but parents of girls must do the same.  We must raise our children to not settle or succumb to the pressure of what other people are doing.  Guys, even trophy wives loose their shine and get dusty and ladies, please don’t bring children into this world hoping to use them to make better husbands of your men.  If you are with someone you really don’t want to be with adding kids to the mix is like adding oil to fire.

With almost one year to 50, 24 years of being together and 19 years of marriage all I can say is that I get it now.  I get it when I look at my mother and listen to her now that is has been almost 10 years since my father passed away.  She did not have a perfect marriage but she had a solid one filled with happiness, support and love and respect.  I watched them put  a lot of work into it, always remembering to put my sister and me aside from time to time to care for each other.  Mom has done well considering her husband died and left her behind.  I like to think that outside of what we can do for her and give her as daughters and grandchildren, it is the love she had with Dad that keeps her going. Watching her and Dad throughout their marriage has made me realize that I have to treasure my time with Tom. I think marriage should not be something we do.  It is not just some next step.  I have no intention of encouraging my children to marry or have children.  They have to do what is right for them and they have to sort that out on their own.  If they do marry, I hope what we are showing them is a good example as my parents’ marriage was for me.  Our life has been very busy since our children were born like everyone’s but we have made it a point to make time for each other no matter how brief or to some perhaps dull and boring.  I love our long conversations, our walks and our marathon TV days and nights.  I love when we have a meal together, spend time over a coffee and when we occasionally go to the movies.  Ever the optimist, he always says “the best is yet to come” and while I am sometimes afraid of “what if one of us misses it?” I am more fired up with anticipation because I believe he’s right.  As long as we are fortunate enough to be healthy, keep the conversations alive, keep loving and  caring for each other, I think and I hope my marriage won’t end in divorce or won’t end with us living trapped in a marriage that eventually will fizzle out.  I hope (a very long time from now), like my parents, only death will do us part.