"SAILING THROUGH THE SHOALS BY STARLIGHT"
By Joe Klock, Sr.
Come April 3, 2004 (assuming we stick it out until then), Firstwife and I will celebrate our 20,454th day (including Leap Year bonuses) of connubial cohabitation, occasionally mislabeled as the state of Holy Acrimony.
Those readers less drawn to mathematical preciseness may refer to it as our 56th wedding anniversary, which doesn't sound nearly as impressive, despite being more than 100 times the life span of worker ants.
However, by any measure it impresses us almost as profoundly as it would have astonished our respective mothers, had they lived to witness that perceived impossibility.
Both of them, although not prone to agreement in most other matters, were of a single mind in believing that we didn't know what the hell we were getting into and stood little chance of making a go of it. In both respects, their doubts were well grounded, but we've managed to muddle through, while fulfilling the majority of their dire prophesies en route.
Like all other long-married couples, we're often asked about the "secret" of success in the adventure on which we embarked the very day that Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan into law and Dick Button won the US Men's Figure Skating Championship. (Neither event, it should be noted, was top-of-the-mind stuff for either of us at the time.)
It's often been said that there IS no secret to an enduring partnership, but that it's a combination of patience, persistence, cooperation, compassion, accommodation, forgiveness, trust, respect, courtesy, humor, admiration, loyalty, kindness, mutual interests and compatibility in the sack.
Those remarkable people who claim that both they and their spice (well, if mouse goes to mice, why not?) consistently brought all of these assets to their years together, are quite likely to lie about other things as well.
One of the truths (there being no "the" truth in this area) is that most people who take the matrimonial plunge really intend to contribute the beatitudes listed above and really believe they're capable of doing so, but we've never seen it actually played out without fail this side of Ozzie and Harriet.
Sacktime symbiosis, a.k.a. the divine urge to merge, is undeniably a powerful force in the courting-to-consorting process, and diminishes little in importance, even if and when vigor must be augmented with Viagrative supplements. But those who suppose that this drive alone can sustain domestic bliss and tranquility are doomed to the same letdown as befalls a car-chasing pooch after he's caught the first few.
Those other blessings (patience, persistence, etc.) are present to some degree in all marriages at all stages of their longevity, but usually are contributed unequally by the principals at different times, each waxing and waning with the tides of emotion and circumstances.
Thus, the patient spouse may sometimes be bitch or bear, depending on the mood of the moment, the phase of the moon, an accumulation of irritations and/or changing chemistry.
That last factor draws attention to two apparently conflicting facts: that nobody has ever been married to the same person for several decades and that, despite behavioral adjustments and compromises, nobody really changes very much when transiting from solo flight to sharing a nest.
Being married for a lot of years means getting to know another human being who morphs every so often into someone he or she previously wasn't - a someone who comes to pass, then passes on to become someone different in the next stage.
It's more than just okay to have stars in your eyes at the altar, under the canopy or before the judge, but there's little hope for longevity if the starry-eyed are blind to the reality they see being played out by relatives and friends, and rely solely on romantic notions and the fragile stuff of fiction, fantasy and soap operas.
Does it help to be in love? You bet your sweet bippy (and a lot more) that it does, especially since even those who are desperately in love will not at all times be "in like" between the honeymoon and the Golden Anniversary bash.
It also helps to have the kind of luck that throws you together with someone who remains comfortable with you (and vice versa) as both of you sail into and through the stages of development, slog through the slings and arrows of unforeseeable misfortune and taste the wines of real life, including the highly rewarding bounty of descendants.
As we close in on nearly thirty million minutes together, we look back on them, on eight children, nineteen grands and soon-to-be four greats, with amazement and gratitude approaching disbelief.
And we look forward to the considerably fewer, but even more precious, minutes still ahead with a renewed appreciation of the love - and the luck - and the starlight.