Happy Endings

(Part One)

RN Sahoo on February 14, 2014 at 5:41 a.m. said:

Your writing is cynical and negative.  “A coffin should be a mandatory wedding gift for every couple” really hurt me.

This was a comment on  http://barbmeyers.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/a-short-essay-on-marriage/

My first reaction to this comment was to laugh.  Not because RN thinks I’m cynical and negative, but because I don’t see how an essay I wrote can “hurt” someone else.  I didn’t write it about anyone else.  It was merely my own commentary from my own perspective not only about some of my marital experiences but also from observing my parents and other long-married couples over a period of many years.  It was written in 2000.

A lot of what I wrote was my view of my parents’ marriage and from conversations I had with them over the years.  My mother thought her marriage was perfect, or at least that was the impression she gave others, and what she wanted them to believe.  If she wanted them to believe it she probably had to convince herself.  Psst, hey Mom, just a heads up.  There are no perfect marriages.

My dad?  I can’t say what he really thought or felt.  He was an enigma in many ways, although I thought I understood him better than most, but maybe that’s what I wanted to believe.

I do think he loved my mother, certainly he loved her enough to marry her back in the early fifties.  They were opposites, of course, as most married couples are.  My husband and I definitely are.

What I recall most is my mother’s disapproval of my father.  He enjoyed cocktails and he was friendly with servers in restaurants.  Joking friendly, not flirting friendly, but I can still see my mother’s frown and her saying, “A.J., stop it.”  Squelching his natural friendliness.

My father’s attitude toward marriage was it was easier to give in to my mother than to fight with her.  That’s what he did.  I wonder how different their marriage might have been if he’d stood up to her.

Always, especially as my dad got older and it was just the two of them, I can hear her say things to him like, “You’re not going to wear that, are you?”  Or “Don’t wear those horrible shoes.”  “Stand up straight.”  My dad would look to the heavens and do what it took to accommodate her wishes.  I’d clench my jaw and stay out of it.

I asked him once how he stood her fussing, criticizing and hovering over him.  He said, “She’s a mother hen and I’m the only chick she’s got left.”

Did they love each other?  Probably.  But underneath that love there was a lot of other stuff going on.  Resignation, probably.  They’d never divorce, never cheat on each other, never leave each other.  They were locked together for life and they both knew it.  There was no point in being unhappy or expressing unhappiness.

“A.J., slow down.”  My mother hadn’t driven a car since the early days of their marriage but she had no problem telling my father how to drive.  His response to this particular comment was to press a little harder on the accelerator.

My father quietly drank. For a long time I didn’t know that although he walked through the door every night at six p.m., he’d actually left work much earlier and spent a couple of hours at a tavern before coming home.

What can I say? I look forward to my glass of wine at night.  Now I know why.

Every night he got up from the dinner table and said, “Very delicious, dear,” to my mother.  No matter what she served his response was the same.  He cleaned his plate and complimented her.  I didn’t know until the last year of his life that he didn’t particularly care for chicken.  She was still trying to feed it to him days before he died.

There are clichés about marriage for a reason.  Because they’re true.  “The old ball and chain?”  Yes, marriage sometimes does feel like you’re in prison and you’ll never get out.  There are times when you’re definitely not terribly fond of your cellmate.  Fleeting moments where escape, whether it be bed sheets tied in a knot or climbing over the wall, are all you think about.

Maybe marriage is more like being in an asylum.  You’re committed to this one person for the rest of your life and it’s enough to make you crazy.

But that’s what commitment is.  For better or worse.  In sickness and in health.  If you make a commitment and you bail, what good is your word?

There’s a point where you no longer tell your mate how you feel.  It would only hurt him or her.  Over the years you’ve probably said it all anyway and it changed nothing. Much better to keep your feelings to yourself, have another glass of wine and post another essay about marriage on your blog.  That way, you’re only hurting yourself.

Note:  The thoughts, views and opinions expressed here are solely the author’s and any damage to readers’ psyches is unintentional.  Warning:  Any comments posted by readers may inspire yet another blog.

If you’re looking for happy endings, I suggest you read romantic fiction.  For suggestions check out my web site www.barbarameyers.com


Follow my infrequent posts on Twitter @barbmeyers and @ajtillock