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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ageing, Marriage Woes and Happy Endings...

Formal Wear?...
Sometime around mid-morning on a recent Sunday, after stopping for some pastelitos at Ricky Bakery (which may not have been the best choice after failing to fit into my tuxedo for a black-tie affair the previous night), as we headed to pick up our kids for lunch in Key Biscayne, where they had stayed for the weekend, I turned to my wife, put my arms around her ever so gently, looked into her eyes and said in earnest, “We’re not spring chickens anymore!”

On another day, she may have taken exception to my comment and shot back, “Speak for yourself!” After all, despite having had three kids, she is weighing as much as she did when we first got married 14 years ago, has run a marathon, two half marathons and competed in several triathlons (Meanwhile, I play softball once a year!).

But, on this morning, she reluctantly conceded, “No, we’re not.” And that may have been an understatement, after two nights of overindulging in food and drink, some soul searching, dancing and rock-and-rolling.

Heck, at this point in our lives, we may be more like an autumn hen and an old rooster (to avoid using the other term that rhymes with mock, although I’m sure she would say I can be that at times too), who nevertheless still has some crow left, if you know what I mean!

In any case, it promised to be a fabulous weekend. We were sending the kids away because we had a busy weekend planned and my mother-in-law offered to take them so they could go to the beach.  As the guy in the Guinness Beer commercials says, "Brilliant!"

It was perfect. We had not sent them away for a weekend for quite some time.  So, I thought, we would stay out late, sleep in and spend some quality time alone (wink, wink); just like the “good old days.”

And I can honestly say, for the most part, it was a fabulous weekend. Only, it wasn’t as I had envisioned or remembered the "good old days" to be.

Friday night, we went to a dinner party/meeting of our marriage covenant group, which usually meets once a month but, because of one thing or another, we had not attended in several months, including to the yearly scavenger hunt, which we truly enjoy!

To throw in a plug for our marriage covenant group, the meetings are always a lot of fun.  It gives us an opportunity to spend time with other like-minded couples, who we admire, and share in our commitment to God, our marriages and our families (in that order, since without God, we have no marriage and without marriage, we have no family), in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, where we normally participate in exercises and activities to help us improve our relationships; especially our communication, which most experts agree is the key to a successful marriage.

Moreover, the outings give my wife and me a chance to focus on each other and just talk, without the constant interruptions from our kids.

And, it could not have come at a better time for us.

It’s funny, as I said, after 14 years of marriage, it is easy to get into a funk and just start going through the motions. We get so wrapped up in our kids’ lives, work, chores and responsibilities that we sometimes neglect what should be the most important human relationship we have; our spouse.

And, as can be expected, when we don’t make time for each other and go out on “dates,” as we have always done throughout our marriage up until recently, it’s easy to neglect each other, and as a result, our communication suffers.  Sooner or later, frustration builds and we start arguing over sometimes trivial or not-so-trivial things.

Leading up to Friday’s meeting; we had spent several weeks at that point and so, the dinner party was God-sent; literally speaking. 

We even played a communication game, where we broke off into individual couples and randomly selected “feelings” from a list compiled by author Gary Chapman, of The 5 Love Languages fame, and had to express to our spouse when we had felt that way recently and when we could recall feeling that way for the first time when we were kids.  It’s an exercise meant to help us express our feelings, reflect on our pasts and learn a little more about each other. It worked!

My words were “fascinated” and “lucky,” which after our great conversation and the exercise; I was hoping to get when we got home! Meanwhile, one of my wife’s words was “coy.” Hmmm.

Anyway, between mingling with friends and talking to each other, we probably drank a little more wine than St. Paul suggested that Timothy should drink to relieve his ailments.

By the time we got home and went to sleep, it was past midnight.  

It’s amazing how romantically you envision a weekend of sleeping in and resting without little feet coming to interrupt your slumber in the early morning hours and then reality sets in. 

The truth of the matter is that now, in my late 40’s, and with my body being used to waking up before the crack of dawn every day, I can’t sleep in! No matter how late we go to bed or how hung over I may feel (as a night of drinking non-stop wine has a tendency to do to me), I wake up early anyway.  Isn't that a sure sign of ageing?

I reluctantly got up and realized I was in time to make it to morning Mass and, when I got home, my wife was already up so we went to breakfast.  Then we went our separate ways to run errands for a wedding that we were attending that night.  

She needed to buy a bag to wrap the gift we had gotten and then had a hair appointment, and I had to get the car washed (our version of romance is no longer walking around Paris in the rain, as we did in our honeymoon, although, in the coldness of March, it wasn't what it was cracked up to be anyway!).

That night as I am getting ready for the black-tie wedding, I quickly realize I should have tried my tux on beforehand and not waited until an hour before we had to be at the church.  The pants needed about two inches to be able to buckle!  And, after trying on a couple of other suits that didn't fit either, I had to wear a sports jacket and a pair of slacks. Nice formal wear!  (At least, my wife thought I looked nice)

Nevertheless, there's something about weddings that always gets me nostalgic.  As I sat there at the church, I couldn’t help but think about our weddings; our civil nuptials fourteen years ago and then our church wedding ten years later, especially when the couple started saying their vows.  In fact, the groom appeared to choke up while saying his lines and, caught up in the moment, I did too. 

Anyway, it was a wonderful ceremony.  The Congregational Minister kept it lighthearted, and though at times may have taken the center of attention from the couple getting married, the ceremony itself was at times emotional and inspiring.

In fact, the first reading from the Bible was one that we used during our church wedding, which is from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and one of my favorites versus, which states, "Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her..."

The second reading was another staple at weddings, St. Paul's description of love in his first letter to the Corinthians, which unfortunately, many couples forget after their wedding day, which states "Love is patient.  Love is kind.  It is not jealous, pompous or inflated.  It is not rude, or seeks its own interests... It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things."

After the ceremony, as we were walking out, we ran into an old friend, whose first words to us was, "I love you guys.  You're so cute together.  You are an inspiration to all married couples."  That's a pretty powerful comment.  It would be the first of several compliments we would hear that night.  

We went to the reception at an upscale hotel in Coconut Grove and, amid mingling with new and old friends, laughing, taking pictures and conspiring to attract the waiters and waitresses passing the appetizers around the room, we started drinking.  My wife was having Apple Martinis and I was having Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks.

Somewhere, during the extended cocktail hour, we got another compliment from a single woman who used to work with me, "You guys give me hope."      

By the time we were let into the ballroom for dinner, and about three drinks into the night, we already feeling "happy."

In other words, if we were around during the Wedding at Cana with Jesus and the Apostles, we might have been responsible for the wine running short (since they didn't have Johnnie Black back then), and probably drank more than our share of one of those 20-30 gallons stone jars that the Lord turned into wine.

As Fulton Sheen once said, "You gotta love a guy whose first miracle was to keep the party going!" 

On any account, we had a blast.  As a matter of fact, they couldn't get the fat dude with the sports coat (me) off the dance floor.  At one point, I was dancing by myself because my wife took a breather to have dessert.

Sometime, between a salsa and a Luis Miguel ballad, a co-worker came up to us and said, "You guys are amazing.  I want to be just like you one day." 

It was the topper on a night full of joy, hope and love (not only for the wedding couple but for us!).

At about 11pm, I noticed a text message from a friend who told me that he and his wife and several other of our friends were at Taurus Bar, which was only a few blocks away, where they had gone to watch another friend, who is a lawyer by day and a singer in a rock-and-roll band by night, perform. We decided to join them and continued the party until finally getting home at about 2am.

On Sunday, as we headed to pick up the kids, we were hurting.  

In retrospect, I guess it was like the good old days, with “old” being the operative word.  But, while we will never be spring chickens anymore and, I may never fit into my tux again, our relationship may actually be getting better (to keep the theme going; like fine wine).  What struck me most about the night, as I thought about it later in the week, was the many compliments that we got about our marriage.  

In other words, despite any struggle and funk we may get into, we serve as an example to others, like those who serve as an example to us in our marriage covenant group.  And, in a society, where many couples are opting for the easy way out, and may be unwilling to make sacrifices during difficult times, it is a great responsibility.

Therefore, no matter what we may be going through, what I think makes our friends admire our relationship is that our love for one another shines through. And going back to the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, love is patient, kind and selfless (which we may not have mastered yet), but most of all, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things...  


Barbara Occhino said...

sounds like a lovely time, my cousin. I've been blessed to get similar comments. Ron and I will celebrate 30 yrs in November. And we've also worked together in our busines for 30 yrs. So that's 24 hrs a day -- not sure if that gives us "extra credit". Yes... communication, patience, and unconditional love and care for the other person. God bless you with many more years.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Barbara.
It's not always easy but it sure is worth it!