Today is the anniversary of the day Jim and I got married. I’d love to tell you that it was a perfect fall day like today, sunny with crisp, cool air, but I don’t remember. In fact I think there were clouds for at least part of the day.
I do remember standing at the front of the small chapel with Jim, our family members in pews behind us. Jim’s sister played guitar as my brother-in-law sang “The Wedding Song.” The church organist indulged us with harpsichord music, including “Ode to Joy” for the recessional. I remember our wedding reception, surely the most boring one in history. Even I was bored! And the photos, almost all taken with the top of the tallest person’s head missing.
Like our wedding, in some ways our marriage is really ordinary, and in other ways it’s quite unusual. I’ve learned over time that no one has a very good view into someone else’s marriage. What on the outside looks very solid can be built on sand. Other marriages may look destined for failure, but in reality be full of strength we can’t see. So I am not the best judge of what parts of our life are unusual and what parts are typical.
What I do know is few women grow up planning to marry a man who already has two young children. When our older daughter was 19 and the younger 16, we had our son. If only in that, our life together has been unusual. But I think there is more. For more than three decades we’ve worked as partners, rarely at odds on any substantial issues. Long ago we understood the value of “giving in” to the person who cares more about something. Fortunately neither of us is a recreational fighter, and our values are so similar that giving in doesn’t need to happen much.
We find the same things funny, as well. Jim could always make me laugh, from when we first met. He told me jokes about the hippopotamus or the school bus… We made up limericks and word play as we drove from one place to another. Now we tell each other stories about the people and places we see, making up long narratives about what led to the current scene, or what the outcome will be. The stories almost inevitably end in laughter.
He taught in three different high schools from the time I met him, and finally retired from school teaching in 2007. Then he spent several years as an office worker before retiring again. I was a student, an office worker, a teacher, at varying times. His work was in physics, mine in finance.
Our professions were in different realms, but our outside interests overlap. We both love sharing and teaching on our blogs, and in person when opportunities arise. Politics and policy are important to us. Our similar values place us on the same side of most policy issues. We both love hiking, and try to stay physically fit through activity and what we eat.
Is this like most couples? I don’t know. What I do know is, whether or not our marriage stands apart, Jim does.
To put it simply, Jim is the best person I know. He treats other people with respect and kindness that seems to be exceptional in the world these days. The way he treats others is not for show. It’s how he is, and how he also treats me, his children, and his closest family members and friends.
More than that, Jim is a rock. He is MY rock. Some people think rocks are boring because they don’t change, but this is not how I see rocks or Jim. Rocks are solid and tangible, but not unchanging through time. They can have many layers, each with a little different character. They wear and weather, changing their shape and revealing new colors. Forces can change their location, leaving them to settle into new circumstances. Sometimes they sport colorful lichens or ferns that grow on rough surfaces or in crevices.
Jim is solid, a rock in my life. He changes but is not fickle or surprising. He reveals new layers to me through time. He makes himself at home in new locations, finding comfort even after upheaval. And he makes room in his life for color, enjoying adventures both at home and away.
Is our marriage unusual? Again, I don’t know. When Jim and I attended a wedding a few years ago, those at our reception table commented about how long they’ve been married. When I noted the length of our union, one of the guests asked, “And how much of that has been happy?” The question startled me and made me wonder. Is a happy marriage so atypical that a question like that is warranted? I answered, “Almost all of it!”
Indeed there have been unhappy days and times of great stress. We’ve negotiated our way through numerous transitions, with multiple homes and states and jobs over time, with distant family support, with our age difference.
Even so, the sun shines most days, as it does today. And when it does not, I have a rock to shelter me.
Jim here… I want to add a few things. You surprised me with this. That’s one of the things about you I like. Thank you for the kind and flattering words.
You are honest and generous. You let people know how you feel without playing games. You try to make the world a better place for those near you. You bring color and beauty to our home. Those are only a few of the reasons I love you. I am blessed.