I am writing this while on vacation with the family in Ft. Lauderdale. As always, our vacation started off with a little drama. Pre 9/11, we traveled to St. Lucia and forgot a birth certificate; luckily we were able to find a sympathetic ticket agent who let us through security so long as we promised to have it FedExed to us while we were away. Honeymoon saved!
A few years back, we did not realize that one of our licenses was expired. Again, we were able to sweet talk our way through security. This year, however, we forgot to check the bag containing my wife’s makeup. The TSA agent gave us two alternatives; go back past security and check the bag or leave over $200 worth of makeup with him to be thrown away. No sweet-talking our way out of this in a post shoe/underwear bomber world!
My wife looked to me, the experienced traveler, for advice. All that would come out of my mouth (in front of our kids and the TSA agent) was, “How could you forget to check that bag?” said in a condescending tone. This was, of course, not the correct response. It was completely disrespectful as it was a completely honest mistake on her part. I was frustrated because I did not want her to loose all of her makeup but I also did not feel as if we had enough time to go back through security to check the bag.
After I calmed down, I told my wife that I would pay for all the makeup she would have to replace, but this did not do much to make amends. It was not about the makeup, it was about how I reacted to the situation.
As I sat on the plane, I started to think about my friend Jack who came up to us after church one day with a big hug and said, “Enjoy this now. My wife and I were just with our kids celebrating our 55th wedding anniversary. The next day we found out that Jean (his wife) has terminal cancer. It was not a perfect 55 years, but we loved each other very much. Treasure this time.” With that, he went away in tears. (As an aside, If you have never heard the song Don’t Blink by Kenny Chesney, listen to it right now. It could have been written based on Jack and Jean’s life together).
I heard that Jean died two weeks ago. We have known Jack and Jean for 6 years, as Jack is the general manager of the swimming club we have belonged to over that time. He was always very social we had many conversations over that time on everything from Catholicism to politics to how fast my children are growing. He and Jean had a relationship to be envied; how many people can make it 55 years?
My reaction to my wife during the beginning of our trip (as well as other times in our lives) is something that I need to work on. My sense is that these reactions I have stem from a place of both selfishness and impatience. In these situations, what my reactions say is that I place more value on convenience than I do my wife’s feelings. Hopefully, now that I am more conscious of this tendency in my own life, I will be able to choose a better response.
Jack’s words to me after mass that day remind me that marriage is not meant to be the end to a race (i.e. dating), but the beginning of a long climb. There will be peaks and valleys along the way and it is how we deal with these peaks and valleys that will help determine whether or not a couple will make it or part ways halfway up the mountain. Now that I am more conscious of my own flaws, I hope that my reactions to stressful situations in the future will be more positive; helping us to keep climbing the mountain of marriage till death do us part.