Just what in the world is that suppose to mean? Does it mean no fighting, no crying, no slamming doors (that would be me, not him), no running away from home (again me, not him), no sleeping through your wife pouring her heart out (yep, that is him), no thinking we aren’t going to make it another year, no heartbreaks, no sorrows, no broken promises? Or does it, in fact, mean that in spite of all those things you are still standing after 30 years, hoping and praying for 30 more? I sure hope so because my 30 years of marriage have been gloriously messy as two imperfect people struggle to hang on with everything they have to the hope and love God has placed in us for one another.
We are a mess, but we are committed – not to an institution, just to each other. So in case you are discouraged because your “Happily Ever After” doesn’t look like you thought it would let me share just a little of what “Happily Ever After” looks like in the Bentley house and see if you feel a little better.
It is Christmas morning. We are in a vacation home in Florida with all three of our boys, my oldest son’s fiancé and her parents. This means there is company present and we need to be on our best behavior. After reading the Christmas story from the book of Matthew and saying a prayer of thanks for the gift of God’s son, we begin to open presents. (Now, let me stop the story for a moment and add that at this point in time my husband and I are just four days away from our 30th wedding anniversary. I believe that is more than enough time for my man to remember what I like and what I don’t like.) I opened a gift from Donald and it is from Bath and Body Works. This I like. The fragrance is Japanese Cherry Blossom. This I don’t like. As a matter of fact, I strongly dislike it and have declared so on several occasions in the past. So please just imagine my bewilderment as I stare at this gift. All the voices in my head begin to speak: He never listens. He doesn’t really even know me. He is an idiot. Yes, these are not nice voices. But remember, we have company and my children are there, so I keep my thoughts to myself and simply say, “Thank you, honey.”
Now, to be fair I must tell you there was another gift: a card that says a night at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock for our 30th wedding anniversary on December 29th. This I like a lot. But that’s an anniversary gift not a Christmas gift, so I quietly stay focused on the absurdity of the first gift.
Over the next two days, before our return to Arkansas, I try really hard to be a big girl and not let my hurt feelings get the best of me. I kept rehearsing in my mind all the wonderful things about my husband and telling myself to let it go. I really thought I had succeeded in putting the gift episode behind me, but then came the car ride home.
Can a family have too much togetherness? Yes, yes I think they can. Especially when that family time comes at the end of a long week of very late nights and holiday celebrations. And the aforementioned family time occurs in a 2002 Honda Accord packed with four adults for 16 continuous hours. At eight hours into this trip two things happened: We had all had enough of each other and I took over the driving duties from my husband. By hour 14 we were in need of some serious family counseling. Granted, I am not the world’s best driver, but I swear if I heard, “You need to pull this car over now and let me drive,” one more time you would have seen us on the evening news.
Remember those voices in my head I mentioned earlier; well they were back in full swing by now. I could have written a book with everything my man has ever said or done wrong in the past 30 years! I still managed to have enough self-control to not let the thoughts become words – only because two of our boys were in the car with us. But boy was I building up an arsenal to use at a later date.
We all made it home, not really speaking to one another, but finally home and out of our confined space.
The following day, Sunday the 28th of December, the day before our 30th wedding anniversary, a day most people would have spent fondly reminiscing about their long ago wedding day, our blow up happened. I still had my panties in a wad over all the poor driving comments, and I just happened to be putting away the Japanese Cherry Blossom gift. I just could not be silent anymore. I stomp into the kitchen with bubble bath in hand and demand to know why in the world he would buy that for me.
Yeah, I know, I wish I was making this up, but sadly it is all true: bubble bath sent me over the edge.
Well, low and behold, he DID NOT buy it for me. He had asked our youngest son to pick something up for me at Bath and Body Works since he (Donald) didn’t have time. When Payton walked in with Japanese Cherry Blossom, Donald did not say anything out of fear of hurting Payton’s feelings by telling him I would not like it.
Yes, I know, it is very sweet of him to not want to hurt Payton’s feeling. But ladies, here is my question, why did he not pull me aside from the beginning and tell me? Knowing the full story only made me angrier. Why would he let me go for days thinking he had gone into a store and purposely picked out a gift for me knowing I hate it? Why would he let those voices in my head have a field day with my thoughts and emotions? OK, ok, I guess I can’t blame all that on him.
So here comes the 29th and 30 years of “Happily Ever After.” Except no one was really happy. I assumed our trip to the Capital Hotel was off. Much to my surprise Donald still wanted to go.
You see, there was a whole lot else the man had failed to tell me: one of the reasons he had run out of time to buy me a Christmas gift was because of all he was doing to try and make our 30th wedding anniversary perfect.
We get to the Capital Hotel, with me still pouting, and check into an amazing room. At dinner that night he gives me an opal necklace and earrings he had made for me. He picked it up that day from the jeweler. I was absolutely undone. He had given me an opal necklace and earrings as a wedding gift 30 years ago. This terrible, awful, inconsiderate man who couldn’t communicate his way out of a paper bag, and didn’t know a thing about me had just melted my heart all over again. After dinner, back in the room, he gives me a vintage opal ring that matches the necklace and earrings. Oh my ladies, I am all in again. Not just because the gifts are beautiful but because he has taken so much time and care to show me how much he cherishes me.
I am the idiot! You know those days I spent thinking he didn’t know me or care about me were the very same days that he was plotting and planning to pamper me and shower me with gifts that he knew would melt my heart and bring back precious memories of a young 21-year-old girl that believed in “Happily Ever After”.
You know what? This much older woman still believes! Oh, it is way messier than I ever thought it would be. But, Dear Lord, if you could give me another 30 we might just get it right.