I think I’m out of stories. All I have left are images. Bright little flashes of emotions that dance in the peripheral of my vision. They seem significant to me, but I have no context to put them in for you. I can’t explain how one smile changed me, ever so slightly, or how a single look of despair, in retrospect, was a warning I should have heeded. I’m not talented enough to pull that off.
But, I’ll try.
I met a couple at a resort once. Older couple. Both in their late sixties. They had been married 40 years. In this day in age, that could be considered unusual. Hell, any marriage lasting over 10 years could arguably be considered an accomplishment. However, the fact that they were married didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that they seemed to be happily married.
I’ve met other couples in the past that had passed the 30-40-50 year mark. They always looked the same: bored, indifferent, and with dead eyes. Some were tired; some were lonely, and all looked as if they had embraced feelings of subdued acceptance.
But not this couple. This couple? Was radiant. That’s the only accurate way I can describe them. They were falling all over themselves in love with each other. They were laughing, smiling, staring adoringly into to each other’s eyes. I’ve seen teenagers less enthusiastic about their first loves. It was so unusual, it was almost madness.
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
“You know,” the gentleman replied thoughtfully, “We just really enjoy each other’s company!”
His wife nodded enthusiastically in agreement. I gaped. After all, I’ve read stories about love like this in books and even watched it played out on the big screen a couple of times. But never, never, ever have I seen a couple proudly, happily, and sincerely claim to enjoy each other after 40 years.
I never saw that couple again, but the very knowledge of their existence stuck with me for a long time. I have no doubt that they’re off somewhere holding hands and sipping champagne serenely by a beach. They are an enigma.
Almost exactly a year later, I met another couple at a restaurant. They tiredly proclaimed to be married for 51 years. When I complimented their accomplishment, they only shrugged.
The wife was angry, bitter, and resentful. In her eyes, her Husband could do no right. He cut his meat wrong. He put too much ranch dressing on his salad. He had no idea how to hold a knife. She threw criticisms across the table with laser accuracy.
It was obvious (to me, anyway) that the husband knew exactly how to hold a knife and cut his meat. After he poured his ranch dressing, he carefully and stealthily hid the majority of it underneath a leaf of lettuce; apparently he didn’t want as much as he poured. With a start, I realized that he was purposely antagonizing her. He was pushing her buttons out of pure spite.
Watching them was like watching a sick, evil little puppet show. He goaded her, she attacked him. He ignored her attacks, she escalated. Within minutes, dinner was ruined. They both looked supremely satisfied with this result.
Before I turned to leave, the man reached out with a bony, desperate hand and clutched my arm.
“Never, never get married,” he implored.
I looked at his wife. Instead of looking offended, her eyes widened in tentative agreement. A slight nod of her head was like the period on the end of his sentence.
That couple was trying to save my life.
Unfortunately, I had met the happy, alien couple first. The odds were against me, but they had accidently (and with no mal intent, I’m sure) turned me into a gambler.
So, I gambled. And I lost. Just like everyone else.
At what age will I learn to respect the odds? At what age will I listen to those older and wiser than myself?
Youth and the ego that comes with it is a curse.
- Marriage is a Series of Peaks and Valleys
- Pet Peeve #5: People Who Treat Their Elders Like Children
- All Eyes On Me
- My Husband is Not the Boss of Me
- Just Say ‘NO’ to Bastard Children