Today, Charlie and I have been married 29 years. He asked me last night why I thought we have been married all these years. I was flippant and told him because of stubbornness, pigheadedness, and maybe a little love.
But, I was having trouble sleeping last night, so in between hands of “Free Cell” on my computer, I thought a little more deeply about his question.
We had no “right” to “make” it. Our marriage longevity has to have been a gift from God. We had both been divorced for 4 years at the time of our marriage. Second marriages have a larger divorce rate than the 50% of first marriages. And, I was a doctoral student in the Psychology Department of the University of Cincinnati. That department had a divorce rate of 80%.
At the time of our civil marriage, I was in therapy for the damage that was done to me from the first marriage, but our pastor at St. Martin’s wanted me to go through the annulment proceedings. I was stubborn and sinful. (Charlie’s first marriage was annulled already.) Fortunately Father Mick never gave up on me or us and when I finally went to him 3 years later, he looked at me and said, “it’s about time.” We were con-validated in 1991.
We were only married 5 years, when he had a collapsed lung and spent Christmas of ’92 in the hospital recovering from that and a mysterious virus in his lung that even the CDC couldn’t identify. In 1995, he had a heart attack and 7 by passes in December followed by two angioplasties in February of 1996. During all of these hospitalizations, he was between jobs and had no health insurance. In a space of 3 years, we were now in debt for about a quarter of a million dollars. “In sickness and in health, and in richer or poorer,” right?
BTW, I wrote my dissertation on a legal pad, sitting by his bedside in the hospital in 1995-96, defended it in May of 1996, and received my doctorate in June, 1996. He was always my biggest cheerleader!
We began to live our simple life that we live today. It’s almost been monastic in a way and our faith has sustained us. He has been in and out of hospitals for all these years with his heart; the most recent being in August, 2011 when he had a stent inserted. He was on disability at the time and uninsurable. The doctor didn’t think that he could keep him alive for the 4 months that it would have taken for Medicare to be available to him. Just as an aside, there was a time that his medicines were costing us about 800 dollars a month. His life has always been more precious to me than anything else in the whole world with the exception of my children and grandchildren.
But, this doesn’t answer Charlie’s question. Why do I think we have been married all these years when all the odds were against us?
I think it’s because we moved from Cincinnati to Atlanta in 1999, seventeen years ago. We each had 3 children but none with each other. We had no shared history, even though we had a lot in common. Marriage relationships have to be built on a bond that is forged in the past. Our pasts didn’t include each other in our youth. That was reserved for our first spouses. So, like pioneers, we moved south to build a new history together. We were on our own to forge our own path away from former spouses, parents, siblings, everything that we feel , now, would have worked against us staying together. We had to make new friends who were our friends; we joined a new church that was our church; we joined organizations that were our organizations and we had to stick together. We turned a me and you, into an us. And that is why we are married 29 years and looking forward to the next 21.