During these first weeks of summer I have spent some time with resting, recreation, and reflection. My son, Joel, and I have talked time and again about posting on the Keene’s Kwikies blog, but “busyness” always seems to get in the way. But, today I decided to share some of my reflections.
I was watching a movie the other day and the main character was speaking of his deceased loved one. He remarked that “there is no memorial or headstone to mark his remains or memory.” I was struck by this as I made the conscious decision to have Larry’s remains cremated and scattered in places I felt would please him. This discussion between Larry and I actually took place one time long before he became ill. In asking what he even would like to have happen upon his death, his response was “I won’t care, so do what you want.” Not being one to experience comfort from visiting a “spot,” I was certain that the ocean—he being a sailor of sorts– and the golfing grounds he frequented annually with his buddies were the appropriate locations. And so it was done.
As for the blog, I have often wondered of his musings on newsworthy issues. On the national scene: the death of Bin Laden, the 2012 election, Newtown and gun control, healthcare, immigration, DOMA, and the most recent announcement that Good Hair Perry will not seek reelection to the governorship. Add to that the various weather tragedies: hurricane Sandy and tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Within the church: the reelection of Bishop Mike, the election of the first openly gay bishop in a committed relationship, and the retirements, travels and deaths of clergy colleagues.
And on the home scene: the births of two new granddaughters, namely, Gemma Lawrence, and Melody Scott, middle-named in his honor, the 92nd birthday of his mother, and lastly, life at home (pretty much around the clock) with his spouse, namely She Who Must Be Obeyed, who retired this past year. I’m certain this increased togetherness would have provided plenty of material to write about.
I am left only to imagine. But, I am sure it would be profoundly well said.
Having Larry’s writings has been a blessing for me. It is a visit, a reminder, and a nudge. Recently, I came across this Kwikies entitled Wedding Bell Blues that was originally posted on May 4, 2005. This Sunday would be the 40th anniversary of our commitment to marriage. Clearly the marriage was not perfect, but it survived and love endured. So with or without your permission:
Keenes Kwikies, 5/4/2005
Wedding Bell Blues
It is, perhaps, pretty close to being almost official that this little corner of the Keene clan will experience its first wedding since She Who Must Be Obeyed and I hooked up back in 1973 (July 14th, to be exact, which, as you undoubtedly know and celebrate, is Bastille Day in France and has been a nice summary of our marriage experience since, oh, July 16th of that year, as in the storming of it). Boner—my eldest—is going to commit formally in the presence of God and all to Mute Girl (she who said nothing the first time our family met her—for obviously good reasons if you’ve ever been at one of our family gatherings: it’s bad enough to meet the family of the boyfriend, even worse when his dad is a preacher, and even worse than that when pastordad smokes, drinks beer, and goes “Booga, booga, booga!” upon hearing at the table that she’s a little shy—though she has overcome the reticence here more recently and is a real delight: he’s done well) till death them do part.
Thus we’ve been doing the pre-wedding shuffles: when? where? how? And especially, what kind of bucks will be required? Oh, and wouldn’t it be nice for the parents of the groom to meet the parents of the bride maybe even sometime before the event. Calling forth, too, the inevitable fatherly advice to son, the same this pastor shares with all grooms-to-be in pre-marital counseling: “Keep your mouth shut until after the wedding, because you have no say—absolutely zero—in what takes place that day. This is stuff women have been dreaming about since they were, like, four.”
So it is quite timely that my internet buddy, John-Mark, forwarded an editorial article in which William Raspberry quotes World War Two (Lutheran?) faith hero pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing from his Nazi prison cell in 1943 to a young couple about to be married: “Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man . . . .It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
Catch that? “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
I’ve been married for 32 years to the same woman (well, actually not the same woman, because nobody stays the same over that amount of time; it’s not for nothing that we say—unfortunately usually accusatorily—“You’re not the same person I married”; well, duh—but she still has the same name), and I’d say about eight of those years have been good, as in, The Way I Want It To Be. Her number of years of Having The Husband I Want might be even fewer, though I can’t imagine how. We’ve come real close to divorce a few times (but no more than can be counted on one, no, two hands), but backed off.
It’s hard to say why we backed off, because when you’re close to divorce, you’re not liking that person very much anyway (with profoundly taxing discipline I avoided sharing with her the new names by which I was referring to her at those times; okay, not names—adjectives). A divorce would have been bad for my career. And when I thought about her raising the kids alone, or with her family, I couldn’t endure the picture of how screwed up they’d be come adulthood. And, of course, I saw first hand the havoc wreaked on the (church) community: a negative impact on worship statistics, the savaging of committees and programs, and declining financial income are just the most obvious of a list that also includes the stress on communal trust as people take sides and, in fact, the demoralization of the community in general, especially if there are kids because the church—or somebody—is going to have to pick up the slack there for the missing parent (and there is always a missing parent; one of the divorcees always leaves the church in which they had been participating).
So we stayed married probably for all the wrong reasons: for the sake of the career, the kids, the community. Nor do we feel strong, romantic notions for one another (well, maybe once a year): our love is defined not so much anymore (if ever) by Valentine’s Day tinglings, but by the history we’ve shared.
Bonhoeffer’s right, you know: it’s not your love that sustains the marriage, but the marriage which sustains your love. The marriage which leads to the one day realization that even when I hate her, I love her more.
Have a good rest of the summer!