Sunday, April 3, 2011

Is this love baby, or is it just a confusion?

Henry and I will be celebrating our forty-fifth wedding anniversary in a couple of months.  It is a big milestone for us.  We were both just kids when we married - I was seventeen, a couple of months shy of my eighteenth birthday.  We were far too immature to marry - the truth is, I was probably too immature to marry when I was twice that age and I think Henry has just now reached the maturity level to be married.  Maybe.  But somehow we made it through those tumultuous years and I marvel every day that we did.  It sure wasn't easy and I would NEVER advise anyone in their right mind to marry that early.  It's not that we didn't love each other - we did - but we looked at marriage as only children from our era saw it - a June and Ward Cleaver fantasy game.  We lived in the present and hardly discussed the future. I think a lot of young marriages start out that way - especially ones that take place during war years.

Although Vietnam was designated a "conflict" and not officially called a war, we all know that it was.  The year was 1966 and we were fresh out of high school.  Henry had a good job, and I had been accepted at two universities and had been offered a full scholarship to one.  He had registered for the draft as was mandatory for all males at the age of eighteen and had been given the prestigious status (pun intended) of 1-A (eligible for military service).  Several of our friends who had no plans for college had already enlisted in the Army or Naval Reserves to avoid being drafted and to hopefully avoid being sent to Vietnam. I wanted him to do the same but Henry preferred to take his chances on being drafted, large as they were.

There was such an uncertainty about serving in a war where there was so much confusion about the issues and our involvement. There were news reports every day of the thousands of young men who were killed or wounded in a war that was hard put to even be identified as a war.  Our boys were risking their lives, but we asked ourselves again and again - what were they fighting for?  Like a lot of young couples during those years, we married out of fear of losing each other.  My fear that he would die - his fear that I would find someone else.  Not a great reason to go into a marriage - but we were young and didn't know better.  A few days after we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, that dreaded letter came with the the Selective Service as the return address.  We both knew what that meant - we looked at it as a death sentence. We wanted to put it back in the mailbox and mark it, Return to Sender - Address Unknown, and move around the country hoping they would never find us. It was a thought, but of course we didn't and he's proud of his years of service to our country.  Besides, wars never make sense - it's just as senseless today in Afghanistan as it was in the years of Vietnam.  As it turned out, even though he received orders for Vietnam, we received a blessing and he got sent to Germany instead.  And I went with him and received another blessing - our oldest daughter - born there in 1968.

I sometimes think we muddled our way through the years like an old car whose steering is a little off - drifting off the side of the road, hitting rocks and puddles, drifting across the center line, but eventually getting to our destination intact.  And with a little help from the Great Mechanic, being stronger for it.   Our two beautiful daughters  were the glue that held us together and once they were out on their own, we found our own bond.

And such a strange but strong bond, marriage is.  If you tried, you would have never found two people more different.  Marriage is a game of compromise which neither of us did well.  I spent many years of self-righteousness - which is a bitter game in marriage. He spent many years of selfishness - which was worse, my self-righteous little self would claim.  Both of these traits contributed to the biggest obstacle in our marriage - never learning to share our feelings.  And I truly believe that sharing things, good or bad, is one of the cornerstones of a good marriage.  It's a piece of advice that should be mandatory in writing, and agreed upon by both parties before a marriage license is issued. Your spouse cannot read your mind.  And share your joy - share your pain.  A mutual love and respect comes out of sharing.

Here we are, forty-five years later and still muddling our way through but it's a happy and contented kind of muddling now - filled with less stress and more sharing.  I often wonder what would have happened if we had gone our separate ways instead of rushing into marriage in such a tension-filled period of our country's history. Would I have completed my education - I would like to think so.  Would we have married others and would other marriages have failed where ours has lasted?  There's no way of knowing.  I do know that the children and grandchildren we love so dearly would not be the same people with the same genetic makeup, and despite our inadequacies, we produced some mighty fine kids

We have a lot of happy memories, we have a love that has lasted despite the differences, and we hope to share these milestone anniversaries for many years to come.  Share is the magic word.  And like the Jimi Hendrix song goes - Is This Love Baby, or is it Just a Confusion?  We both know that it was love -it just began in a world full of confusion.


  1. I am so grateful that we were both able to muddled our way through the years and eventually reach our destinations intact.

  2. Marlene, I think that you and I had a support system going. It's important to have a best friend to share the muddling. I'm not sure what we would have done without each other to share our frustrations and happiness.

  3. I really enjoyed this. Thank you

  4. Wuch a thoughtful post. We are the sum total of our experiences - the good and the not so good, the wise and the foolish - to change even one thing along the way would make us a different people in both subtle and significant ways.

  5. You're right Sue. Just one tiny change - like the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" - the angel Clarence showing George what life in the small town would be like if he had never been born.


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