Archive for February 15, 2013

For Better or for Worse, But Better is Better

Heart figureIt is the day after Cupid’s Day and I’m chomping sour grapes.  I’ve managed to convince myself that the only reason I didn’t win a Valentine dinner out with my sweetie is because the local newspaper’s “Greatest Love Story” contest was judged not by the quality of the mini-essay entries, but by who was able to round up enough acquaintances willing to help them stuff the electronic ballot box.  But who wants a fabulous gourmet meal at one of the finest Italian dining establishments the Twin Cities has to offer, anyway?  (Pit-too-ee; these Concord  seeds are hard on the teeth.)

Now that I have that all rationalized, my thoughts are free to explore more consequential things.

On the day before Valentine’s, I interviewed a warm, delightful woman who survived over three decades  of marriage to an emotionally unbalanced man who had never given her one compliment or word of encouragement in 33 years of living together.  A specialist in the art of non-parenting, he overtly favored his first-born son, and virtually ignored his only daughter and son number two.  Looking back, Trudy struggles to forgive herself for not “taking the kids and leaving” that dismal family environment years earlier.

But her children bear no ill feelings.  Somehow, with the help of a gracious God, Whom their mother led them to in quiet moments alone together, all three turned out to be high-achieving, well-adjusted adults.  “Forget it and put it behind us,” they counsel  their mom, appreciating the fact that it was a blessing to have been mostly ignored by this narcissistic man, who bought himself $300.00 suits while his wife and children shopped at second-hand stores.  And the fact that Mom’s loving ministrations had more than compensated for Dad’s neglect and verbal abuse.

Within a year or two of finalizing her divorce from the charmer who shed his niceness like a molting reptile  the moment he had walked down the aisle, Trudy met a wonderful man for whom it is second nature to treat her with loving respect and to be an equal partner in every aspect of their lives.  Her gratitude for this union radiates with every relaxed smile she beams and every endearing southern expression she utters.

My husband’s 2013 Valentine card to me sums it up quite nicely:  “When someone means a lot to you, you need to let them know.”  Inside he had hand-written, “I’m sorry I don’t say it and show it, better and more often.”  He’s not given to grandiose displays of emotion, this is true.  But he shows me his heart in a million ways, large and small, every day of every week of every month of every year.  And that’s more than I would have ever thought to ask for.

My Valentine to him this year is the little blurb I wrote for the newspaper contest:

My husband Jack and I live in Fridley, which is where we first met in high school.  We came close to dating back then, but ended up going separate ways, with separate spouses, until – both single again – we re-met at a reunion years later.

Even after 25 years of marriage, it seems a bit presumptuous to claim to be the world’s greatest romance:  we didn’t exchange love letters across a war-torn continent or have the honor of donating a major organ, one to the other.  But we did give each other that cherished second chance to discover true devotion – the kind that survives rebellious stepchildren, career disappointments, the loss of loved ones, and personal health crises; the kind that hangs in there for the ebb and flow between passion and friendship.  And that particular blessing may just translate to the best gift this earthly life has to offer:  someone who will always, bottom line, invest the time and effort to figure you out, to help you over the rough spots, and to guide you toward your better self.

I only hope that my appreciation for my second chance shows forth like Trudy’s does.  But I know one thing for sure:  I don’t need to win some silly contest to confirm my great good fortune.  And that’s not the sour grapes talkin’, either.

February 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm 2 comments

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