Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Art of being married twenty five years

"If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation."
(Madeleine L'Engle,The Irrational Season, 47)

In the second act of the broad way musical Fiddler on the Roof, preceding their daighter Huddle's marriage, Tevye looks at his wife Golda and asks her "Do you love me?". Golda, does not directly answer her husbands question at first. She does bring to his attention, however, all of the things she has done for him during their twenty five years of wedded bliss, such as cooking, cleaning, bearing and raising children, and milking the cow. Tevye wants more from her than a litany of all she has done faithfully through the years. He wants to hear the words spoken from her lips. "Do you love me?", He asks again. Golda sings in reply, "For 25 years I lived with him, fought with him, starved with him, 25 years my bed is his, if that's not love what is?" Tevye responds: "Then you love me..." and Goldie answers, "I suppose I do." Tevye responds, "I suppose I love you too!" Finally they sing together: "It doesn't change a thing but even so, after 25 years it's nice to know."

I have thought often of another song. The song by Elton John written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, " Goodbye Norma Jean". The first part of the refrain grabs me over and over, "And it seems to me, you lived your life like a candle in the wind never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in". I think about this person having difficulty and not having anything solid to hang on to, to act as an anchor to be a steadying object or a compass as a guide. Goldie and Tevye, the two characters in Fiddler on the Roof are are very different than Marilyn. They are, like my husband and I, common folk, trying to do our best, sometimes blessed, other times, beset with difficulties.

Today is my husband and my twenty fifth wedding anniversary. I don't know how we got here, one day at a time, "sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years". It really was nothing remarkable, we were young, then suddenly middle aged! The good times flew by, they always do, but it was through the difficult times our personal faith sustained us. Like Goldie and Tevye, there have been many times that we have taken each other for granted and forgotten to say those all important words,"I love you," yet there has not been a time when we havn't known who to cling to when the rain set in. If there was a visual representation of what our marriage looked like it would be a braid, three strands plaited together. One strand would be my husband and the other interwoven would be myself and the other strand binding us together would be God. We began our marriage twenty five years ago as a covenant between us and our heavenly Father. Today we celebrated and gave thanks, dinner out and new wedding bands, as we had worn out our old ones. If we live long enough to see the next twenty five years, we will be quite elderly. "Grow old with me, the best is yet to be" the front of the card read, I gave my husband.