My parents have been married for 52 years, Mike’s parents for 46 years. Mike’s sister and brother in law for 10 years. A friend of mine has been with her high school sweetheart for almost 30 years. Uncle Jack and Auntie Dot got to a staggering 73 years. There are excellent examples of the longevity of marriage vows all around me. In each of these, there has been challenges that could have rocked the bond to the core, but they came through it. There have also been absolutely splendid moments and events that have laid the foundation and helped shore up the relationships in dark days. Mike and I have been married for 21 years. Sometimes, as he sits on his chair and I sit on the couch in the quiet and still of our house, I realize that we don’t have anything to talk about. I mean, there’s stuff we could talk about – what kind of crackers to put on the shopping list, or what errands we have the next day, or when we’re booking vacation days for the year. But there’s nothing we HAVE To talk about.
When we go out for dinner, we often talk about cadets (since he’s the Band Officer and I’m the Support Chair). Maybe talk about work for a few minutes. Then… there’s quiet. At home, we watch hockey or a rerun of Bones or Big Bang Theory for the millionth time. It feels lonely sometimes in TV SyndicationLand, but it also feels safe and comfortable and reliable.
Growing up, I distinctly remember the first time I had a friend whose parents were splitting up. I didn’t know the parents, really, but even on the periphery, it felt earth shattering. No one in my family was divorced; no one I knew was divorced. It was completely foreign to me. Barely out of my teens, I watched a perky young lady sit on another friend’s father’s lap at the bar where I worked, and boyoboy did he look embarrassed being the ersatz Santa Claus. There must have been issues in their marriage before I caught him with his chippy, but it still threw me for a loop. Since then, of course, there were other friends’ parents and family members whose marriages ended. Now, several of my close friends are divorced. Most of them became my friends long after the breakups happened, so I didn’t watch the demise of their relationships. So I still don’t really understand how it happens. I mean, I get that having a lap-tart might be a good line that you don’t want to cross, but what about other stuff? Your beloved’s quirky eccentricities that used to be charming become rage-inducing. Or your grow apart gradually. There’s a straw, that might be something as unassuming as toast crumbs on a counter, and that’s it. You’re done. You can’t even. So in challenging times, how do you know when you hit that wall?
Our neighbours have a very explosive relationship. The police come a few times a week because she’s by herself wailing in the driveway and on the sidewalk in the middle of the night. Then, a few days later, they sit on their deck together and we exchange pleasantries like nothing happened. The distance for them between highs and lows are huge. And heartbreaking. The fellow in that relationship is headed to rehab, as he explained to Mike with an apology for his behaviour. Hopefully that gives them both time to think about what they need, and if their relationship can provide it. Either way, I hope he gets the help he needs.
I’m glad Mike and I don’t have that kind of drama in our world. While I quip that the notes in the ensuing investigation will describe the day I finally had an aneurysm because Mike can’t put his banana peels in the compost, and he quips that if I touch his feet again he’s going to brain me with my cast iron pan, I’m pretty confident that there won’t ever be police at my house because of a domestic.
We’ve settled into a comfortable routine that’s predictable and stable and reliable. And it’s not as urgent and twitterpated and pining as it was 20+ years ago. We’re less Rocky Road (Ha! See what I did there??) and more… Vanilla. Well, maybe not fully vanilla. Vanilla-based like a good raspberry ripple. Like Cookie Dough. Like a DQ Blizzard. You can flip us upside down, but we don’t go making an unholy mess.
So there it is. While vanilla isn’t where I thought I’d find myself, I’d never suggest that vanilla isn’t a very fine flavour.