Over thirty-something years ago, I did not go screaming and kicking into marriage . . . though, I will admit I was pretty oblivious to what was really going on. I recently read a quote by B.A. Billingsly that stated: “Marriage is our last best chance to grow up.” Living in oblivion and ignorance, I gladly walked into marriage not knowing what a life-changing event it would be in the journey called life. Little did I realize that I would have to sacrifice so much . . . who would have thought that I actually had to grow up.
I realize that the wife might have a difference of opinion about the “growing up” part of marriage . . . still wondering when it is going to actually happen; but, neither one of us is the same person who stood before the pastor and proclaimed, “I do.” We have definitely grown . . . but, whether it is “up” or not . . . well, I think that the jury is still out on that one. The wife is still waiting.
Now, trust me. I am not the same person who agreed to all the fine print . . . all the stuff the pastor never stated in the ceremony . . . when he got married. I agreed to all of the “for better or worse, richer or poorer” stuff accented by “until death us do part.” After thirty-some years, four children, and entering into grandparent status, I know that I am not the same person I was when I boldly proclaimed my undying love and devotion to the wife . . . but, the wife reminds me—quite often, that I need to grow up.
I am not sure what growing up means. Does it mean trying every new recipe that the wife finds? Recipes that go beyond the basics of meat and potatoes? Recipes that combine foods that God never intended to be combined and placed on a table? Does it include eating chicken every three days? Eating exotic fruits and vegetables that could never survive in Montana? Having a meatless meal? I get the feeling from watching the wife’s reaction to my reactions to some of the meals that she prepares that I need to grow up and eat grown-up food. In my attempt to grow up . . . I have gagged down a whole bunch of so-called grown up food. Is that what it means to grow up?
Is it changing one’s wardrobe? Dressing more appropriate for one’s age? I don’t know . . . the clothing I wore as a teenager was comfortable and practical. I should know as I still have lots of it hanging in the closet and stashed in the drawer. I don’t know . . . I am kind of a sweat shirt and jeans sort of guy . . . but, the wife hints that I should dress more appropriate for my age. A wardrobe of high water pants, dock shoes, and a heck of a lot more color. I thought the only colors there were for clothing was blue (as in jeans), gray, and white . . . black socks when going to anything that is formal or semi-formal. At least she hasn’t asked for an ascot yet! I get the feeling that I am several decades behind where I should be when it comes to growing up . . . but, hey! I am comfortable. How many people can proclaim that?
Is it giving up those habits I enjoy? Having a couple of beers on the weekend . . . screaming during Big Red football games . . . corkscrewing the Kleenix into my nose instead of blowing like an adult . . . belching or farting when I am the only one in the room . . . rolling my eyes when in the company of idiots . . . flipping off drivers who irritate me when driving . . . giving up rock and roll music . . . teaching my granddaughter all of these wonderful habits. Is that what it means to grow up . . . giving up that which makes other people unhappy or uncomfortable despite the fact that this is the way that God wired me?
Is it learning to say, “Yes, dear”? Yes, dear, even when “dear” is wrong and way off base? Is it learning to bite one’s tongue? Of never winning an argument?
Is it not pouting when having to do something when you rather be doing something else? Going shopping in shops that no man would ever be caught in . . . at least before he got married. Is it feeling comfortable holding the wife’s purse while she shops? Is it grinding the teeth when she drives? Is it accepting the challenge when she threatens the children with, “Wait until your father gets home”?
I am not really sure what it means to grow up. Most the people in my life, including the wife heartedly agreeing, would say that I have not grown up a whole heck of a lot . . . that I am still wandering around in the mid-1970s. They are all still waiting . . .
. . . still waiting for me to grow up. Still waiting for me to stop acting like I was stuck in the fifth grade. Still waiting for me to stop throwing hissy fits when I am upset. Still waiting for me to stop doing sophomoric gestures at irritating drivers. Still waiting for me to quit being a wisecracking jerk. Still waiting for me to stop picking my nose. They are all still waiting. Marriage hasn’t seemed to change a whole bunch in my life when it comes to growing up. I guess most folks have decided that I blew that last chance.
Yet, I honestly think that I have grown up.
I see it in the way that I can sit for hours with my granddaughter, look her in the eyes, and respond—in all seriousness—to her babbling as if she is speaking to me in coherent sentences and language . . . in the way that I can treat her as a human being deserving of respect and love. I see it in the way that I can have a major melt down, act like an ass with those I love, and that, in the end, they will still love me whether I love myself or not. I see it in the fact that I might moan and groan at what my loved ones have done—including the wife, but that in the end . . . I still love them more than words can ever express. I can see it in the efforts that I make . . . efforts like eating foods that smell, look, and taste funny . . .
I have grown up whether it seems like it or not to others or myself. In particular, I have grown up in realizing how important those words were that I affirmed over thirty years ago . . . words to love and to honor . . . in sickness and health . . . in wealth and poverty . . . in good times and in bad times. I am still here . . . still in the thick of my promise to love forever the woman I love. I am still here. I will not forget the promises I made to the wife in the company of our friends, family, and God.
One of my favorite lines from a movie came from the movie, Shall We Dance. In that movie one of the characters—the wife of the husband who she suspects is cheating on her, but does not realize that he is taking dancing lessons for her—is in a bar, talking to a stranger about marriage. In her brief monologue she says: “We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does anyone life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."
I have grown up. I have grown up because I realize that it is my responsibility to be a witness to the life of the woman I love . . . the wife. It is my responsibility to make sure that she is never forgotten . . . that she is remembered . . . by her children, family, friends, and anyone who will listen. It is my responsibility to make sure that she is not forgotten . . . that she is remembered as not only my spouse, but as a beloved child of God. I am to be her witness.
That is growing up. Growing up is realizing that there is more to life than just yourself . . . it is remembering the “other” . . . it is saying, “I love you” no matter what. This I do . . . this I do whether I feel like it or not, because it is true. There are no rose colored glasses from which any of us can look at marriage . . . marriage is just what it promises to be . . . it is an adventure filled with just about everything life can throw at a couple. Yet, despite it all, there is still love. I recognize that . . . I don’t think that thirty-some years ago that would have been the case. Sure, maybe in my mind, but not in the heart. The heart is where it counts. I realize that today. What else matters?
Though I did not go into marriage kicking and screaming, I have done more than my fair share of kicking and screaming since I said, “I do.” It sure doesn’t look much like growing up, but I am still here. Marriage is work . . . ask anyone who is married. I am still here . . . if I had known what marriage really involved thirty-some years ago . . . well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be here today. Today I am the willing and glad witness to the woman I love. If that is not growing up . . . well, then, I don’t know what is.