Wednesday, February 16, 2011

47-365 Fifty years

Yesterday my in-laws celebrated fifty years of marriage. And below is the their wrapped present.
I'm quite the wrapper. I love getting all "creative" but more importantly it reflects one of the best lessons my grandmother ever taught me -- (said with a very slow southern drawl) "For heaven's sake, child, show somebody you care."

She used the admonishment if were undertaking any task and not doing our best. It is why, she told us, you dress nicely, prepare food well and serve it on the good china, keep a nice home, and wrap lovely presents. All things, but especially food and gifts should be presented in their best light, taking time to be thoughtful and letting the other person know that they matter enough for you to give a damn.

She was horrified by "gift bags" that started becoming popular in the early 80s. She hated it when people dressed "slovenly" to go to church, supper, or even shopping. "Caring isn't convenient" she'd say. If we'd stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken after church, EVERYTHING got transferred to serving platters and bowls before we sat down and said grace and commenced to eating with our bare hands. (Finger lickin' good!)

Not doing your best for those around you wasn't considered just sad, it was considered insulting. Strangely, lots of folks to that in their marriages -- stop dressing well, eating well, giving small gifts presented thoughtfully -- those acts of caring that make simple things gracious.

Sadly, her life wasn't exactly filled with warmth and caring. In fact, it was a pretty cold, dark place. Her 50+ year marriage was the same. If there was ever any caring between her and my grandfather I never saw it. They slept in separate rooms, rarely spoke and if they did it was generally something cold and cutting. She had no friends and in fact almost never left her house. But you know what? There were still a TON of people if I say, "They were married 50 years" those folks will stupidly slap huge congratulatory smile on their face and respond "Wow. Isn't that great!"

No. Not really.

In a casual FB mention of the anniversary dinner someone made one of those stupid comments and I, ahem, pointed out the error in the thinking. My in-laws marriage aside, I truly believe that a "long" marriage doesn't necessarily equate to a good one and some folks should do themselves and the rest of us a favor and throw in the damn towel. Yes, there's something to be said for pushing through the challenges that growth brings; sure, not every day is sunshine and flowers. But their should be mutual growth and not mutual destruction and more days should have sunshine than not.

In the end, I just don't see a lot to celebrate in a marriage that does little more than provide a forum for mutual hostility and seething resentment. And when I do encounter those folks -- and I'm working hard to be in their number -- who've enjoyed, not endured, fifteen or fifty years of wedded wonder, I'll be thrilled and honored to celebrate that!

1 comment:

  1. There is something very important about doing ones duty. Being responsible. Taking care of your family, your children, your job. But no one says you have to be miserable while doing it! Sometimes? Sure! Responsibility blows. But it's unfortunately necessary. Trick is making sure you try to enjoy the moments when you can be irresponsible all the more!

    A few years ago I noticed my anniversary cards tended to have comments from me talking about how 'hard' marriage and relationships were. But how they were worth it. As soon as I realized I was doing that I thought, there is the path to misery. And knocked that shot right out! Yes marriage is hard, it's work, blah, blah, blah. But I refuse to dwell on that part. It makes life WAY more fun!