Give with grace and we will grow together: An annual report

Thirty-four years ago today, the two stood before their four parents and swore; The groom’s father was an ordained minister, so the vows were valid. It was a hastily arranged event, as the groom’s mother was dying of cancer and might not live to see the actual, consummated wedding planned for a year or so down the road.

That marriage never happened. The groom’s mother died less than three months later, followed unexpectedly by the bride’s father dying two weeks later. I don’t remember what Jeanne or I said during our vows on that hot July day in Pennsylvania. But looking back from a distance of thirty-four years, one might have said:

Love is a painful, painful, and touching attempt by two sinners to try and fulfill each other’s needs in situations of uncertainty and not knowing who they are and who the other is, but we will do it at best.

Or this:

Marriage is a desperate, generous, uncomfortable game taken by two people who don’t know who they are or who the other is, locking themselves in a time they can’t imagine or prevent. research is needed.

These definitions of “love” and “marriage” came from Alain de Botton in a talk on Krista Tippett’s program “On Being” in 2017 called “The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships. ” They beat me rightly; Perhaps that’s why de Botton isn’t asked to give suggestions or propose toasts at weddings very often.

I don’t think of my parents as a love story—they were my parents, for God’s sake. But I think Jeanne and I were about ten years older than my father when my mother died. I understand better now than I did thirty-five years ago at least some of what he went through, because I have no doubt that he felt he and my mother will see their fiftieth year of marriage (they were twenty. -seven) and live together into their eighties like his parents and the parents of my mother.

For years, Jeanne and I had a good deal of freedom about which of us would die first – neither of us wanted to outlive the other. I can’t imagine life without the man I have for good and better than half my age. I remember what the author of the Book of Tobit asked: Give me love and let’s vomit together.

George Eliot uses this epigram to introduce one of the last chapters in her masterpiece Middlemarchmy favorite book i’ve gone back to reading is Rebecca Mead’s My life in Middlemarch some time ago. Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot nom de plume) lived a brutal life by the standards of Victorian England, but I was surprised to see many similarities between Jeanne and my relationship and Mary Ann’s relationship with the love of his life, George Henry Lewes. Mary Ann and George (Evans took his pen name from Lewes) met in their thirties, as did Jeanne and I.

When we met, Jeanne was unmarried, although I had been divorced five months earlier; When he met Lewes, Evans was unmarried, although Lewes had married his estranged wife and had four children with another man (due to the technicalities of English law). , they are not divorced). My son was two when Jeanne and I met; Lewes had three young sons when he met Mary Ann, all of whom were in boarding school. Much to the dismay of Victorian society, Evans and Lewes lived together unmarried for more than two decades in what appeared to be a happy and fulfilling relationship.

I loved reading Rebecca Mead’s chapter on Mary Ann and George’s relationship, because so much of it felt familiar. To use an overused term, they are clearly ghosts; if the word means something else, it describes Jeanne as well as me. In an essay written while on her “honeymoon” in Germany with Lewes, Mary Ann wrote that

It cannot be denied that unions based on mental and emotional maturity, and based only on physical and mutual interest, will lead people to intellectually love each other. a few.,

even in a letter to a friend after life he wrote that

Constant thanksgiving with love for the gift of holy love is the best illumination of the mind to all the good things that are in store for man in this troubled little world.

During a difficult time a few years ago, a dear friend told me that I had died since I was young. Jeanne said, “You’re on your side.” we are. Mary Ann and George seem to be at home for each other.

About five years ago, I had a nice conversation with a friend from church who shared something she and her husband shared with Jeanne and me. For the first time in thirty-five years of marriage, this couple began to live in their house separately – no children, no visitors, no long-term tenants. Likewise, Jeanne and I spent the first few months in our house—no children, no long-term guests. After years of not seeing each other for weeks at a time when Jeanne was always away for work, we were always (and still are) very soon.

“Is it too hard?” asked my friend, thinking silently, it is very difficult for her and her husband. I can honestly say that although it is different, it is not very difficult, except that I always try to go somewhere in our little house at the same time that Jeanne wants to go there. Why are we in our little kitchen at the same time?

We have a quiet and normal life of the kind that those who only know the extroverted side of Jeanne find hard to believe. Only those who have lived there know that many life experiences, most of them difficult and difficult, have brought us to this wonderful place of peace and quiet happiness. Ours is not the kind of love story that people write novels or movies about – there are too many blockbuster games every day and too few to hold the attention of the public. observer.

At the end of Rachel Kadish Tolstoy liedthe main character thinks about what he has learned about love.

Love–real love–isn’t cinematic. That’s what others are talking about: How to grow trust in rootlets. How two people who started out as lovers end up taking care of each other’s well-being.

On our anniversary, I’m so grateful that I met this beautiful rose at my parent’s house about thirty-five years ago (!)—it was more than I could have hoped for and more. back than I deserve. There’s a way I don’t want Jeanne and my relationship to be like Mary Ann and George. Both died at age 61; we have years more than that. And so I ask, Give with love and let us grow old together.

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