In honor of this, my 15th year of marriage to Amber, I’ve been working on a series of “15 reflections.” Yesterday I published Part 1 of 15 Marriage Lessons: A Year by Year List. Today, I continue that list. For more in this series, follow the “15 Things” tag.
Lesson #8 (2007): A worthwhile marriage culminates in a bedside goodbye.
My father's father passed in 2007. My grandmother and the hospice worker sat by his side as he had lucid flashbacks to an Oklahoma childhood, and told us of a large, purple and gold clad angel that kept coming and going from the room. My sweet grandmother stayed by his side through the passing, said things like "it will be okay," and "go on, Leroy."
Not everyone has this sort of abiding marriage. If you’re lucky, and you happen upon a little grace, you can live into a similar one.
Lesson #9 (2008): Buying a house at the market peak is something akin to the Manhattan Project; after the elation of success subsides, you realize you're stuck with a long-term remediation project.
We bought a large house at the peak of the market in 2007. In the summer of 2008, after a trip to Mozambique, we decided to downsize. There was one tiny problem. In the year between our purchase of the house and our placing a “For Sale By Owner” sign in the yard, the housing market took a bit of a dip that resembled the following clip.
A word of caution to the youngsters looking to buy your large “forever home.” Don’t do it if the market is at peak performance. A home is never as “forever” as you might think, and once the new wears off, you’ll realize you are stuck with the residence until the market recovers (which might take years).
Lesson #10 (2009): Forgiveness is the measure of love.
I don’t suppose there is much more that should be said about this one, and the circumstances surrounding the lesson are immaterial. Perhaps it can stand on its own?
Lesson #11 (2010): Downsizing is all fine and good until the laundry house burns down.
In 2009 we decided to put our money where our mouths were, decided it was time to downsize and get free of the debt from our earlier years. We leased our house, and moved into an apartment across town that was owned by a local para-church ministry and housed college students and returning missionaries.
At first, it was a romantic little notion, we living with the students and the missionaries. In the dead of winter, with snow falling, the apartment laundry house caught fire. Already inconvenienced by the 1 block daily trek to the laundry house to stay atop Mount Laundry, we were now faced with the specter of having to drive to a local Laundromat.
Yes, downsizing is all fine and good, but make sure you have a backup laundry plan.
Lesson #12 (2011): "In sickness and in health" isn't just a trite platitude.
Amber and I used traditional vows, and pledged to stick it out “in sickness and in health.” At the time, I reckoned that this pledge related to our own sickness and health. Priests, preachers, and justices of the peace are not always the best at teasing out nuance.
In 2011, Titus was born. From the beginning, he took to floundering. For a while, his heart was a bit too holey, then his esophagus was a bit to tiny, then his immune system was flat-out wonky. In the whirlwind 2 years that would follow, we walked the nuance of loving each other “in sickness and health.”
Sticking together through the sickness of a frail child is not easy work. Remembering your vows and teasing out the nuance makes it easier.
Lesson #13 (2012): A spouse is not a best friend; a spouse is something more.
I’ve had a few "best friends" over my life, and with each, I assume that said best friend will be the last best friend I ever need. Friendships come and go, though. Best friends become good friends, good friends become every-now-and-then friends, every-now-and-then friends become acquaintances. Deep down, I think we all know this to be true.
A spouse is something more than a best friend. She’ll bend, endure, perhaps wax (metaphorically and literally) and wane. She'll laugh, cry, play, and work with you. You'll rear children together, cultivate more than one harvest of memories. And, on those darker days when the odds are stacked against you, a spouse won't run from trouble; instead, she'll do her best to give the old wuxi finger (hold) to any enemy (metaphorical or literal) that dares to round the block.
Lesson #14 (2013): De'Nial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Amber looked at me once, asked, “haven’t you been drinking a bit too much lately?”
My face flushed and the heat rose. “I can quit whenever I want!” I said.
Note to reader: if these words ever slip from your lips in regards to any old habit, consider whether you’re your floating down a slow river called De'Nial.
Lesson #15 (2014): Tuscany is for lovers.
Stash your change for the next fifteen years. Plink your pennies into a jar. Throw a few spare greenbacks under your mattress. Melt down your high school graduation ring and sell it for scrap. Be creative and save, save, save. Then, take a big trip with your spouse, leaving the kids behind. You won’t regret it.