Saturday, September 8, 2018

For Better or Worse

I often sign up for a literature/discussion group given at Temple University’s Ambler campus where each semester the instructor assigns us five books that are somehow related. The topic this time is “Marriage - better, worse or not at all.”

It’s funny that that is the topic because I have been thinking a lot about marriage lately, and I guess these thoughts started in May as I watched the royal couple exchange their wedding vows. Looking back, what stayed with me was the way Prince Charles stepped up to the plate to walk the bride down the aisle, the unforgettable sermon by Bishop Curry, the way the Kingdom Gospel Choir sang Stand by Me, and the sight of Doria Ragland, Meghan's mother, looking alone, serene, beautiful, and regal.

A week after that wedding, my granddaughter, who wrote the post A Teacher Speaks, Arm Us in this blog, got married in Harrisburg in a wedding as elegant and as beautiful as that of the royals.

During that ceremony, the bride and groom exchanged vows, not just to one another, but also to my granddaughter’s five-year-old child from a previous marriage. As the bride and groom each took one of her hands, they promised to love, protect and guide her through the years. And as he spoke, the bridegroom became so overwhelmed with emotion he fought back tears, as did almost everyone in attendance, including I who had never cried at a wedding before.

Of course, after a wedding comes the marriage. But what I know about marriage could fit in a thimble with plenty of room to spare. And what I believe is that a marriage is supposed to be happy. Looking over the the five books assigned for this class - Mrs. Bridge by Ethan Connell, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Barbara Pym’s Excellent WomenDays of Abandonment by Elana Ferrante and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – from what I’ve read and gleaned so far, although beautifully written, there isn’t a happy marriage among them.

 But all this musing about marriage reminds me suddenly of something that happened long ago after I met a man I have written about often in this blog, and in my books. It happened not long after I met him which was five years after he became a widower, losing his wife of forty years. 

We were sitting together in the living room when I got up and went into his kitchen for a bottle of water. In the dining room, I passed a picture of him and his wife. Enchanted by the way they looked together I picked it up and returned to where I’d been sitting with him earlier. “I love this picture,” I told him, “The two of you look so happy. You look so per-.“ 

“No. Don’t say it,” he spoke, interrupting me. “It was a marriage. It was sometimes great. But it was never perfect.”

Good enough, I think now. Quite good enough. 

My second book, Dear Elvis, a memoir about grief and loss, can be found at

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