My Column for The Elgin Review 2.12.20
One day when my youngest son was nearly one, he spent over an hour trying to fit five crayons into a little crayon box from Bob Evans restaurant that had room only for three. No matter how hard Ben tried, he couldn’t get all his crayons into that box.
On my 60th birthday last week, I came home to our little Lincoln apartment after attending a conference. Beautiful red roses from Mike were waiting for me in a Rubbermaid pitcher on our tiny kitchen’s counter. After finding a vase, arranging the bouquet and making it the center piece on our dining table, I sat on the sofa surveying the humble room. My feet were resting in my husband’s lap, the flowers he’d given me were just beyond him on the table.
“My fifties were wonderful.” I said. “I have no fears about turning sixty.” After I said it, Mike and I both laughed. In the decade that was my fifties, my father died, I had cancer, we fought and lost a battle with a developer who built big buildings on the property lines of ours and our neighbor’s homes ruining our views and robbing our privacy, one of our six kids kept us awake at night with worry for a couple of years straight, we moved twice and I suffered a deep betrayal culminating in job loss and a months-long depression.
Even so, my fifties were wonderful. Ten years ago, on my birthday when friends asked if there were any hints of romance in my life, I was happy to report, “Maybe—there’s a man with whom I’ve been corresponding and we plan to meet someday soon.” That man was Mike, and just over a year later we married.
Each of us was married before. Both of us worked hard at our first marriages. After twenty-two years his first marriage ended. After nineteen, mine was done. Heartbreak and defeat, sorrow and loneliness were feelings with which we were both well-acquainted. Years later, I remember how hard Ben tried with those crayons to make work what was not going to work, no matter how long he worked at it, no matter how hard he tried. That’s the way both Mike and I worked at our first marriages. No matter how long, no matter how hard we tried, they just didn’t work.
It’s not that way this time for either of us. Together Mike and I share an easy joy. Ten years into our relationship, each of us still lights up when the other walks in the room. We wake up next to each other in bed and when he’s right there beside me as I awaken, I giggle in delight. We are kind to each other and considerate. Marriage means doing our share of the hum-drum chores and navigating holiday plans and our six kids. Sometimes we get cranky when we’re hungry or tired. But, unlike before, being together doesn’t ever feel like work. Being together feels like home. If feels like happiness and love. Being together makes easier the hard times and more manageable the challenges that are inevitably part of every life.
Some of you reading this are saying, “Yes! That’s exactly the way we feel.” Lucky you!
Some of you are longing to feel this way. May God grant you patience and peace as you wait in expectant hope.
Some of you once knew this kind of joy, and are grieving the death of your beloved. May God console you and comfort you in the warmth of your memories.
Some of you doubt relationships exist that can make even cancer, death, betrayal and rebellious teenagers pale in the brightness of your love. May you come to believe the scripture which says, “With God all things are possible.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.