I promised to love and honour, not obey

Posted on 19 June 2011

At my 60th birthday party, Rob read this poem (he always finds the most perfect poem for the occasion) by Margaret Atwood:

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

The edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

“We are [still] learning to make fire.” And so we went to Spain for the anniversary of our wedding. Before we left, I threw together a blog entry. (Believe it or not, I find it difficult writing celebratory messages of love and applause. I don’t want to say something I’ve said before or worse still, write a cliche.)

When I mention aloud we’ve been married for so many years, the usual response is “congratulations.” Longevity isn’t necessarily a good thing, is my usual answer. I am often contradicted. “It is. It is.”

I mentioned in my post that when I ask Rob why he loves me, he says “you’re not boring.” Marlene asked me why I love him. I’ve been thinking about that since the 13th. No, it’s not that difficult to think of reasons but I want to find the main reason, the one that has kept me by his side for most of our 41 years of marriage even during the times when I have despaired for the two of us. I think the main reason is that he is content with himself, by himself. I have never met a person who is so self-directed, so self-sufficient, so without artifice. (Funny too that these are the reasons that drive me up the wall, that make me at times feel superfluous.) He is steadfast. He is my anchor.

When we went to Spain, I brought along a gift book from Susan – “A Widow’s Story” by Joyce Carol Oates (or Mrs. Ray Smith – for surprising to me, she thinks of herself as a wife more often than a writer.) Susan gave me this book because I enjoyed (perhaps not the right word) Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

I am not obsessed by death but, at this time in my life, it becomes more and more a reality. Friends younger than I have died. I wonder if reading about the death of a loved one will encourage me to appreciate, enjoy, love more fiercely those I care about while there still is time. Hopefully this is true.

I identify with Oates’ words:

“My husband has a capacity for enjoying life that isn’t possible for me, somehow.

There are those – a blessed lot – who can experience life without the slightest glimmer of a need to add anything to it – any sort of ‘creative’ effort; and there are those – an accursed lot? – for whom the activities of their own brains and imaginations are paramount. The world for these individuals may be infinitely rich, rewarding, and seductive – but it is not paramount. The world may only be interpreted as a gift, earned only if one has created something over and above the world.

To this Ray would respond with a bemused smile, You take yourself too seriously. Why? [Rob has often said this to me.]

Always Ray has been the repository of common sense in our household. The spouse who, with a gentle tug, holds in place the recklessly soaring kite, that would careen into the stratosphere and be lost, shattered to bits.”

Likewise, Rob is the repository of common sense in our household. He is my anchor but I am not chained to him. He wouldn’t want it so. I would hate it. For the most part, I feel free to do as I please when I please (though sometimes I apologize.) And sometimes, I feel a need to be alone, away from him, to make sure I am singular and autonomous (I think these are the reasons.) – nothing is a certainty with me. (A thought is just a thought – I read that somewhere.)

As we settle in France, alone without children, together alone, our relationship is changing, becoming more tender. One of the best things that has happened here is that Rob has taken over the cooking. He calls me for my supper. I love it.


Today is father’s day – in France and Canada – and so I have created a picture card for my father.

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