Marriage: 37 Years On
I have been married for 37 years.
We have not lived together consecutively all those years because, after awhile, she got tired of moving so much and wanted to stay close to her home base. So I trekked across America to jobs lasting from years to months.
And that may be the first secret of marriage: Take a break when you can.
There was this one couple who I knew who got married the very day we got married. Theirs lasted a shorter period and he is now dead anyway and I think of them as I think of someone whose name I see in a cemetery who happened to die on an important date in my life. The train stopped and they got off.
But a cousin of mine, my favorite cousin Johnny, got married the same month and they are also still married. Like me, he is the only one of his siblings in a set of four still married and neither of us started out thinking that would happen.
We both came from families in which divorce just didn’t happen until our generation took over.
You know, when you start any path you also wonder about those who you knew who got married at the same time or even those who got married after you did and didn’t stay married long.
This intersects with an observation of which I had two test sets.
I often hear politicians mouth a talking point: The traditional family. And they mean the traditional heterosexual marriage more or less.
It has been decades since it became true that more than half of U.S. marriages end in divorce. And it has been at least 10 years since it became true that more than half of the American women (the majority on our country) have opted to not be married at all.
Our eldest daughter, Meggie Sue, now 28 and married herself was just a teenager playing softball the summer the idea hit me.
We lived in a tiny town. A safe, tree-lawned town where everybody knows everybody. One day at a magical summer night game (they all were), I started looking at the other parents just in our side of the stands.
It dawned on me then that we and two other sets of parents were the only original marriages still intact. There were several single moms and several more conjoined families, second parental units raising the players. We fit right into the national norm.
Our youngest just became a teen queen. We live in another small town. Just in her immediate circle of a dozen friends, there is just one other original marriage still working. The others are, without fail, single moms. Some of them dating but, for now, single moms. So the statistic has hit home again.
And I have a very good gay friend who was a single mom and is now reconnected with a new wife.
So when I hear politicians talk about the traditional marriage I wonder if they really know they are talking conjoined families and single moms
When I posted the anniversary of my marriage on Facebook, I got 61 responses from friends. Thirty-seven appears to be a record of those I know.
Many of them cut the strata of my life, from high school classmates to college friends to job assignments in Tennessee, Indiana and especially South Bend. I loved every experience
When we started out, I was already a semester into college in Bloomington. I remember clearly, in the Rolodex of my mind, the two of us standing on a street corner in the middle of campus with only one of the freebie handout maps to guide us.
We were not afraid. By the time we left, we knew every shortcut, every bargain store and had to get from her to there on foot, bike and by van.
In Knoxville, same thing. The partnership figured out highways and byways and, partially because I was covering sports and always finding ways to and from athletic endeavors, it covered a region of Upper East Tennessee and then Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
We’d just get in the car and go. No Internet to guide us, just road maps and confidence.
Those shared life experiences were the envy of many of my friends who enjoyed the liberation of campus in the mid-’70s but not the loneliness between sessions. Our shared life is its own existence, never one without the other.
Yes, I have thought what if I did not marry then, as so many of my friends chose.
Writers usually work when other folks at enjoying the events. In other words, date nights. Many of my writing friends married much later if at all.
I would not exchange any of the good and bad of my life for anyone else’s life.
Yes, I do wonder about other women who were attracted to me at different stops and what if I had been available then. I used to tell my friends if they wanted to stray to just get unmarried first. I followed my own advice when faced with the opportunities and stayed married.
Those are the what-ifs that would make me crazy if I let them.
I don’t let them.