Several years ago my mother reminded me of the obvious: marriage requires sacrifice, commitment and effort. We had been discussing a failed marriage, and, rather than being her usual judgmental self, she was being philosophical. She believed in “until death do us part” and after a lifetime of watching her relationship with my father, particularly over the past two years, I have come to realize that, even though I never heard him tell her that he loved her, he truly does and he too believes in the sanctity of marriage.
It’s been exactly two years since my mother has been more or less incapacitated by a series of minor strokes and blocked carotid arteries. For more than a year she has been dependent on others to move her around, to maintain her hygiene, and, generally, to provide for her every need. While she is still able to read, this once eloquent woman has difficulty sustaining a conversation, no matter how short. She has no idea how to take care of personal and business finances—once her domain. She can’t use her computer to research and write monthly articles for the local paper. Essentially, she a shell of her former self, but my father is still devoted to her.
I could write pages about the adjustments my father has made in his lifestyle in order to do what he feels is best for her and to keep her in their home. However, the important point is that I believe more than ever she was right about marriage being a challenge and about more people needing to make the effort to ensure that their partnerships work. My marriage of almost twenty five years has not been easy, and like many couples, my wife and I have thought about going our separate ways. I believe we haven’t because, despite our differences, there is such a thing as love—an enduring love that, with the passage of time, can overcome adversity, strengthen commitments, and allow two people to grow old together,
At these moments, I think of Tevye and Golde lying in bed, and the husband needing to know if his wife loves him. The scene has humorous elements, but response that he’s eventually gets rings true:
For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that’s not love, what is?
Whether it be twenty five or fifty or more years, after watching my dad’s devotion to my mother over the past two years, this I believe: Remaining married for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and loving and cherishing each other until death is one of the most challenging things two people can experience. Nevertheless, if that marriage is based on mutual love, respect and understanding, it ultimately can be one of life’s most rewarding undertakings.
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