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The Wedding Day
Robert Hannigan and I were married March 27, 1967. The sun stroked the freshly cut grass and glistened when it approached the remaining droplets from our last spring shower. People clustered around the church, eager to move inwards and be seated, but excited to see so many familiar and unfamiliar relatives. I, of course, was fussing over bouquets, when my dutiful maid of Honor, Sue, came to my rescue and ushered me back to my room so that she could decorate me with something old, new, borrowed and blue.
All too soon, but not fast enough, I was standing arm in arm with my father and staring out a crowd full of expectant faces. Looking up at the man at the altar I had the quick flash of concerns, what if we weren't right for each other? Were we making a big mistake? Had I already seen his character flaws? Had he seen mine? I was nearly there, I saw him smiling, he looked sure, and I loved him, if he was sure, then so was I. I was released in front of the priest, the music stopped and he began.
One year later, I am struggling. Things are difficult. His hours are late, and my job as a secretary is unfulfilling. I get home, ready to talk, to spend time together, he would rather have dinner, bathe and read before falling asleep early. I am left to clear the table, mop up the bathroom and pick up his book, which is lying face down on his night stand and shut it on a bookmark. I peer down with distaste at the ashtray and make sure the stub is completely out. He is lightly snoring already when I pick up a book and read for a good hour before falling asleep myself and have dreams about turning around that day at the altar.
It is the year 2007, we just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and I am preparing for his 60th birthday in August. Our anniversary was nice, He got me that necklace I had been ogling for months and I presented him with a gold desk set and a framed picture of our grandchildren. Tomorrow we take off for Europe and are going to do a grand tour, visiting relatives and staying in luxurious hotels. "Honey?" "yes, I'm in here" "have you seen my good pair of eyeglasses?" "yes, they're on the table in the study" "oh, yes, I remember" he turns away and I think back to that day at the altar, and try and remember the people we were.
We were young, ready and scared for life to begin. We were both flawed, trying to contain them, but it was hard, they soon came spilling out. His actual flaws; sloppiness, smoking, and inability to say no to colleagues. And then the ones that weren't really there, the ones I made by not seeing the whole picture. I saw as stubborn, what was really determination and failed to recognize when he was being overworked swell. 38 years ago, I taught him how to find equilibrium with his work and home while my work became my home with the arrival of Sara. He helped me through a near nervous breakdown and I got him through the struggle for partner.
Four years after that, he quit smoking and I became tolerant of his nightly ritual because I knew he needed it. Soon, I was a big part of that ritual, and he could unwind just by telling be about his incompetent co-worker or a secretary who can type 66 words per minute, but has a voice that pierces the solid walls of his office.
It was a long journey to where we are now. We grew to complement each other, lean on each other and even think for each other. We used each other, using the vows that we gave to overcome our fears, knowing we would be there for each other, no matter what came. And that gave me the courage to live after my father died, our friends moved away, our son got sick and we changed into much less attractive people. Old age was something that scared me up until I entered into it, the same way marriage did, but it was because of my marriage that I still smile and laugh, although the fact that I'll be in Paris in just a few days helps.
The true purpose of marriage isn't about the here and now and isn't even about fiery passionate love, although often they are present. In reality, marriage is about making a long lasting bond. The one you marry needs to be someone with whom you can become one with. After years together, people naturally start to intertwine themselves so that it becomes unrecognizable as to where one starts and the other begins. As people grow old and frail, it is necessary to have someone to provide extra support. A spouse is there to give strength, the strength to live until one is past losing hair and teeth and has moved on to memory.
The two people make each other better, not with nagging, but with good influence. They live so long together, their thoughts seem to become similar. Some people don't understand how this could happen, but in truth they must be unwilling to be part of the process. Some people fear commitment, fearing compromise and sacrifice. Their spouse must give them the strength to overcome those fears. It becomes easier to sacrifice and compromise because people do change; they grow.
We grow from the moment we are born to the day we die. We start upwards, then outwards and all the while our mind and character is learning and changing. Therefore, two people may not be two perfect pieces of a whole, but they might contain the right mold for each other to grow into.
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