Love In The Middle Ages
It was a hard snow, the kind that stings your face on its way to burying everything in sight.
I stood in front of the kitchen window, warm and dry but for my red, swollen eyes. I wrapped my arms around me and held on tightly as I watched him pitch the shovel into the ground, pound it with his foot and dig up another small scoop of frozen soil. His face was knotted in concentration, and his hair grew whiter with each passing minute.
My husband did not know I was watching him. He had no idea I was standing on the other side of that snowstorm thinking, this is what marriage looks like.
I ask your indulgence as I ponder the wonders of marriage on this, the ninth anniversary of my second chance at love.
Agreed: This column runs in newspapers’ op-ed sections and in political blogs, where my personal happiness is irrelevant to readers.
Further agreed: Any claim I make to marital bliss only serves to annoy those who disagree with me on just about everything.
Nevertheless, consider: We have more in common, you and I, than we might want to believe, especially when we compare the terrain of our beating hearts. Even those who loathe my every opinion want to believe I’m right when I say we are never too old for love.
No need to admit it. Sometimes a woman just knows when she’s pushed the right button.
Man or woman, straight or gay, conservative or liberal, we all need somebody to love and who loves us back. Brad Paisley has it just right when he sings, “Sometimes life ain’t all that pretty when you’re watching it all alone.” No matter how rough the landscape, the view gets better when you have someone standing next to you, shoulder to shoulder, with a grip on your hand and a hold on your heart.
Nine years ago today, I did something I swore would never happen again in my life. I walked down the aisle — this time with a grown child on each arm — and promised before God and 130 guests that I’d love forever the man beaming at me from the altar.
It was a second marriage for both of us. Ohio law required us to present evidence of our failures to the county clerk before she could give us a license to try again. Humbling reminder, that one. We were longtime single parents who knew all the ways a marriage could go wrong.
We are not gay, so, lucky us, we got to give marriage a try. Again. This injustice is not lost on us. I imagine that my pointing this out means I’m about to lose some of you, but please keep in mind that the majority of Americans think it’s time to embrace a wider definition of marriage. May we all live long enough to reap the benefits of a country willing to celebrate so much love.
“Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn’t have one,” Adam Gopnik wrote recently for BBC News Magazine. I promise that you never will get such a list from me. My only suggestion for those of you in a relationship is to imagine regularly what it would be like if your loved one were gone.
So many times in the nine years of this marriage, one of us has turned to the other and said, “Why couldn’t I have met you sooner?” No golden wedding anniversary for us. This single fact reins in arguments and decriminalizes many a human habit. Our only guarantee: Time will run out. Sometimes, we feel a sense of urgency about life’s smaller moments. We listen harder.
And that is why, several weeks ago, my husband stood out in that snowstorm and dug a grave for my beloved cat, Winnie, who died at home at the age of 18.
I had wrapped her body in a baby blanket and lain her in a pretty box in the garage, hoping the weather would soon break so that we could bury her in the backyard. It was a bad week for snowstorms, and after the third day, I was inconsolable.
“I feel so guilty,” I told Sherrod. “I know it’s ridiculous, but it just seems so wrong to leave her out there — all alone, in that box.”
He got up from his chair, pulled on his boots and jacket, and headed for the door.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com
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