I cannot imagine life without Lois, and I do not want anything other than what I have been given.
On our anniversary Lois gave me a little book edited by Scott Peck, a collection of sayings about love and marriage. Peck observes the way that his own marriage of 40 years (at the time of writing) illustrated Kübler-Ross's well-known five stages of grief: denial that the romantic love of the honeymoon phase had died; negotiations trying to recapture that first glorious stage; anger when it became clear that married life is a journey quite different from the courtship; depression as the realization of what married life is really like settled in; and finally acceptance of that reality. Peck observes that once the couple come to that final stage there is a depth of union and commitment and joy unknown to the young couple, and available only to those who persist through the whole journey.
It makes sense to me then that the first 20 years of our life together--lived in Indiana and Pennsylvania and Kentucky and Zambia and Zimbabwe--were more difficult than the past 14--since we moved to Manitoba. The first 20 were good years, but they were the learning years, the years in which we discovered what those promises meant, which we had made to each other so earnestly and yet with so little understanding. These later years have been richer precisely because they are the later years, the years in which the fruit of the first years come to maturity. There are still struggles: Struggle and life go together. But there is a safety and strength in our relationship that allows us to deal with the struggles of life.
My mind goes back to those first promises. We decided that we wanted to write our own vows. I think now that I would use the vows written by the church and shared by so many other couples through the centuries. Perhaps a bit of tweaking--to love, honour, and obey sounds strange to children of the Sixties, unless we can promise to obey each other (which would at least come closer to Ephesians 5: 21 than requiring the woman alone to obey does). But I have a greater appreciation for the strength of tradition now than I did then. Perhaps one of the effects of growing older, perhaps greater maturity, perhaps.
But we wrote our own vows anyway. I remember the dress rehearsal. We had decided to recite our vows from memory. I did not yet have them memorized. Lois was--shall we say concerned. I was not particularly worried, inasmuch as I was active in theatre at the time and knew that I had my lines well enough to say them the next day. And of course we both spoke our lines from memory. No problem.
Actually, a small problem. I have no idea today what I promised. Lois claims that it includes such things as, "I will always answer the telephone and write all letters that need writing." I'm pretty sure that those specific promises were not in our vows. And then she made a discovery. When our sons were visiting, she was going through boxes in the basement looking at old clippings and other memorabilia--and then she found the vows. I wanted to close with them, but we can't find them again. We'll look. Maybe some day I'll find out what I promised 34 years ago. For now I know it was a good deal. I've kept my promise (whatever it was). Lois has kept hers. The journey continues, and I like it.