“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” Simone Signoret
Five years ago, we celebrated our forty fifth anniversary; I looked back on our time together and did my best to tell of the marvel who is my wife, Rita. (Anniversary Waltz) Five years later, I haven’t changed my mind. Today, I look ahead a bit.
Somerset Maugham once wrote this, “We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” At the risk of disagreeing with one of the most important novelists of the last century, the concept of the constantly growing, evolving human person is evident; however there is continuity as well. A person lives in a story, their story, and their essence remains constant. Rita remains a mystery while I know her as intimately as one person can know another. She has learned, matured, grown as all persons do, but her essence is that of the same young beauty I loved as a twenty-year-old. Changed and unchanged, far further along in the plot of our shared story, but constant in fundamental character, she remains my beloved wife.
“Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.” Franz Shubert
I think now it is the little things I most cherish. Her expressive face with a thousand subtleties cannot hide her inner being: serene, joyful, stormy, worried, love filled, skeptical, pensive and many shades between. I sometimes see these uncanny nuances in her children. I especially love the sleepy face with tousled hair when she puts on her well-worn blue fleece bathrobe and emerges from the bedroom to greet me with a long hug and a short kiss while I’m usually reading or praying on the couch. There is the amused smile when I do something stupid or utter a remark to evoke that smile along with the pointy fist banging into my chest when I cross the line into outrageous. Her many sounds are so very familiar, her laugh, her business voice, and she makes a smile come through the telephone. I love to sing next to her at Mass and hear her soprano. Her husky, quiet voice when she shares her secrets or fears or her love and concern for her children. The scent of her on the pillow next to me lingers. Her warmth when we spoon early in the morning or late at night. The softness of her skin remains, and though time and child bearing has changed her, her feminine ways will be lovely to me forever.
Our shared time together is invaluable: mutual chores, walks, quiet conversations, reading near each other, occasionally interrupting each other’s reading to share a passage, poignant or insightful. Our closely linked heritage and faith, so dear to us both, helps bind us. Fifteen thousand nights sleeping together, sometimes restlessly, sometimes exhausted, sometimes so familiar it aches. Waking next to her; I feel her stillness next to me and her calm breathing. Forty thousand meals together, some are shared with others in good company or now mostly just the two of us.
Her silly goofiness that we share like a secret; there are aspects of our relationship that are so knowing, so intimate, they can be understood only by other couples with long, deep friendships. Disagreements, now always short lived and usually without too much fire, but it wasn’t always so. We’ve lived a history both before and since our marriage that is irreplaceable: new places together, twelve different homes, sorrows, mistakes, joys and grieving the loss of parents. Four children, daughters and son, so different from one another and yet sharing commonalities they will never lose. And now four granddaughters of delight and wonder.
There is no substitute in this life for such a marriage. My gratitude cannot be expressed either to the Author of our lives or to His greatest gift to me. There is nothing left to say.
“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.” Winston Churchill