A Perfect Marriage

By Jeannette Gartner

Nuh uh, not ours! Oh no. That is a hypothetical title – as if there ever was one – Perfect Marriage, that is. What’s wrong with our marriage, you might ask? Consider the facts, if you will. First of all, as I told you before, OST* only gave the marriage 6 months on the day we were wed. And of course, I’m pretty sure I already mentioned in another tome, we’ve only stayed together for over 50 years because of the kids – neither of us wanted them. And even though they’re all grown up now, they could still come home at any time. Or the grandkids could come here to live. Or one of us would have to take the pets with us. You just can’t take those kinds of chances.

I won’t say our marriage was made in Heaven, but it was apparently Meant to Be. We happened to meet one week before my college graduation at a party a mutual friend gave. I had signed a contract to teach in California for BIG BUCKS that spring and planned to move in August. So we met about the last week of May, hit it off, dated long distance during June and July and got engaged in August. Obviously I couldn’t leave my fiancé and move to California for the year, so I took a job in Albuquerque for SMALL BUCKS and we got married in November.  After such a whirlwind romance, I’m still not sure it’ll last . . .

As in ALL marriages, we’ve had moments of sanity return when one or the other of us might wonder what in God’s name we had gotten ourselves into (now don’t even try to tell me you never did, not ever, not even once). Fortunately, that’s often followed by moments of hilarity and/or jocularity.

When you are planning to get married, people might mention the adjustments that will be needed regarding what kind of toothpaste you use and where he leaves his socks, but anything more traumatic has to be sort of stumbled through. Despite all the traumas, trials, and tribulations (notice the lovely alliteration there?) there has been a lot of laughter (aforementioned hilarity and jocularity) to mitigate it all.

Andy Stravers Gallup Journey

Illustration by Andy Stravers

Here’s a word of advice to anyone contemplating a Perfect Marriage, or perhaps many words of advice, freely given. You’ve got to have ground rules, so-called “Rules of Engagement.”  Call them whatever you want. Not to say that we actually set ground rules; we sort of slid into marriage by the seats of our pants. We didn’t actually discuss much of anything other than where we’d live after the wedding (which changed 6 months later). But for those of you who like stuff like that, rule number one should be “no cutting fingernails in church.” Okay, that’s the only rule I know, but it’s a good one. Not that either of us ever thought of doing that, but a friend’s husband did and I thought it’d make a good rule.

Also, I guess it’s a good thing to have stuff you both like or dislike. For example, we both dislike uh, well, ah, okay, then, we both like chili! Although OST grew up with Texas Chili, which is obviously a misnomer as there’s nothing CHILI about Texas Chili. Before he ever had REAL CHILI, he seriously thought the Texas stew-like stuff was really chili. Huh. If I’d known that when I married him, the wedding might never have happened. Good thing there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know about him and vice versa when we got married. I need to reiterate that before the wedding we didn’t ever really discuss much. It wasn’t until we’d been married about ten years that we discovered we’d both played tennis in high school. What a revelation! That was a good one since we’ve been playing ever since!

And he didn’t know I don’t do windows – or a lot of other stuff, either.  I thought he meant it when he promised to “keep me,” (okay, maybe that’s not the exact wording, but that’s what I heard), because I promised to love, honor, and depend on him (well, maybe that’s not the exact wording either). What a shock when I found out he expected me to keep working!

I didn’t know he was such a gifted handyman – why, he can fix, build, or break (sometimes breaking, then fixing) practically anything! He didn’t know I was such a good cook – I can fix meals that are almost always edible! He’s tall and I’m not, (it’s very helpful to have someone around who can reach things you need from high places). He’s also strong, which is very handy since I like to rearrange furniture and he can move it around. We actually have developed a great working relationship. I come up with ideas and designs and he figures out ways to implement them. I won’t go so far as to say I’m the brains and he’s the brawn . . . well, I would go that far, but he’d object.

During the time women were burning bras to declare their liberation, I would have done that, too, but my OST wouldn’t let me, and no one would have noticed if I’d burned my bra. It would’ve been no big thing. That’s a lie, really, about OST not letting me, he would have, but I was as liberated as I wanted to be. I had learned early on that if I took on a job like mowing a lawn or wielding a hammer, it suddenly became my job. He forgot how to do that. So we had a mutually acceptable division of labor. I thought of things to do and he did them. All right, maybe it was only mutually acceptable to me.

In a “Perfect Marriage,” communication is important. We sort of speak the same language(s). I speak a little Navajo, a little Spanish, a little Italian, some French cooking, and then there’s English. I used to speak a lot more English as well as some of the other stuff, but everything fades as you get older. OST speaks a little Texas (“y’all,” and “Umble All,” which I’m told is really Humble Oil – I’ve tried to break him of Texspeak, and have been partly successful, maybe), and some English. He also speaks football, basketball, baseball, and possibly some others. Mostly, though, we’ve learned to speak “kids.” As in “you won’t believe what (insert name) did today,” and “whose turn is it to (insert job)?” Now that the kids are grown, we speak some “grandkids.”  We’ve also learned to communicate by nods, yeahs, and a lot of “huhs?”  We both speak tennis and bocce ball, but probably the most important thing we speak is humor. Not only are we both funny, but we both think the other person is funny. Our kids all speak computers, cell phones, and electronics.  And luckily, all of them speak humor, too. However, the words we seem to use most often these days are: Huh? What? Remind me . . . , and have you seen my (insert missing item)?

OST is the nicest person I know, which is a good attribute to have in a marriage. He will drop everything to help out a friend, or maybe even a stranger. He’s been known to pick up hitchhikers and he’ll always go out of his way to deliver or pick up something for a friend. He opens doors, pulls out chairs, and always lets ladies go first. He’ll help someone move, paint, or install. When he’s driving a car, there could be no one behind him for miles, yet he will stop and let someone pull in front of him into traffic, even though there may not be any traffic. It drives me crazy! If anyone or any organization even says the words, “Can anyone help?” his hand goes up – sort of like my kids’ did in school, if the teacher said, “Can anyone’s mom . . . ?”

Despite communication challenges and other things no one ever mentions before you get married, we’ve managed to muddle through a little more than 51 years of marriage so far. We certainly don’t have a Perfect Marriage, but then if we did, we probably wouldn’t have so many laughs . . .

*OST = Ol’ Silver Tongue = Hubby


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