So this is love (after 20 years) …

It never ceases to amaze me … this thing called love. Because. I’ve known of and know men who … cheat on their wives, remain faithful despite long separations, shoulder on through widowhood for more than 20 years, become silent partners to their domineering wives, are proud of their trophy wives, etc …

A friend, for example, yesterday recounted to me a man who told her while she was attending to his wife (her patient), “You’re very fortunate, you don’t live with your husband (my friend’s husband works in the city 250 km away and they see each other only during weekends). It is very difficult to come home to a wife everyday!” The guy’s wife, btw, was pregnant with his ninth child when he uttered those words.

It being our 20th wedding anniversary two days ago, I am sharing here a post that was originally published on Sept. 29, 2014, in another blog. Please pardon my long-winded reflections on the nature of love …

Never think she loves him wholly
Never believe her love is blind
All his faults are locked securely
In a closet of her mind;
All his indecisions folded
Like old flags that time has faded,
Limp and streaked with rain,
And his cautiousness like garments
Frayed and thin, with many a stain–
Let them be, oh let them be,
There is treasure to outweigh them,
His proud will that sharply stirred,
Climbs as surely as the tide.
Senses strained too taut to sleep,
Gentleness to beast and bird,
Humor flickering hushed and wide,
As the moon on moving water,
And a tenderness too deep
To be gathered in a word.
Sara Teasdale, Appraisal

It hits me at the most unexpected moments. That the guy I married remains true and faithful, even after spending nearly 20 years with selfish me. And I wonder: Why? How? One of those times was last July, right after Typhoon Glenda had wiped out electricity and water supply in our village. Knowing that I had not wanted to return home to the Philippines for a vacation, the hubby said nothing while I used the lack of water and electricity to feed only bread to the family and immersed myself in a poetry anthology to prevent myself from complaining.
 

When dusk fell, he quietly gathered up our two youngest children (why did they have to dirty themselves more than usual when there was no water?) and cleaned them up using only a tabo of water. I came upon the children being wiped clean in our upstairs veranda and quickly turned to our bedroom so nobody could see me choking up. We don’t have a maid so scenes like that – they overwhelm and make me cry. To me, that act of love was better than an SMS saying “I love you.” Without an exchange of words, what my heart heard was “This service is not a sacrifice on my part because it was done to make life easier for you.” It also spoke volumes about the kind of man I married: quiet, unassuming, and a servant-leader willing to do dirty jobs. Then again, it’s not  surprising because the hubby is a farmer’s son. And proud of it, too.

 

This month, Christianity Today published an article entitled “I Didn’t Marry My Best Friend.” I could write an article, too, entitled “I Didn’t Marry My Husband” or something like “I Didn’t Marry the Man I Thought I Was Going to Marry.” Because. I didn’t really know the man I got hitched to. How could I? We didn’t grow up together, we were never playmates or classmates (we were schoolmates) and besides, how does one truly get to know another person whose interests are a far cry from yours except by the grace of God?

She reads the paper while he turns on the TV,
she likes the mountains, he craves the sea.
He’d rather drive, she’ll take the plane.
He waits for sunshine, she walks in the rain.
He gulps down cold drinks, She sips at hot.
he asks, “Why go?” She asks, “Why not?”
In just about everything they disagree
but they love one another and they both love me.
                                             Eve Merriam, Two People

         All I knew back then was that this guy is – just like me – a sinner saved by the grace of God and that, out of debt to the Cross, I’d have to forgive him for whatever future hurts he’d bestow upon me. So it’s been quite a dance through the years… this learning that love is a verb, not a noun (a feeling) as so many of us have been led to believe.
So yes, he still springs surprises on me. Like the time he signed up for scuba diving lessons. Or the times he splurged on a Nikon digital single-lens reflex camera and expensive lenses. I wondered whether these had to do with life happening after 40 but later realized they only reflected his spirit of self-sacrifice – he’d waited until our financial position was somewhat stable before pursuing his passion. Or dreams. Or whatever men call the gadgets they buy. I’ve heard they’re toys for the big boys.

         Perhaps the greatest quality that I appreciate about my husband is his being a follower of Christ. It’s almost sacrilegious to admit this and I’m guessing not many will understand but I do mean it when I state that listening to one’s hubby preach or deliver a sermon can be a huge turn-on. Couple that with a self-confidence that gives him strength to go against the world’s grain and boy, have you got an attractive combination.   

Next is his inability to be attracted only by physical beauty (or so I’d like to believe, ha, ha). I can’t count the number of times when I’ve expressed admiration for a woman’s beauty only to be told something negative about her character that he noticed but which I had not seen. Besides, as one’s looks go by the wayside, one cannot help but feel greater appreciation for a man who does not see you as a trophy wife but has valued you as an intellectual equal since the start of your marriage. 

 Oh, and have I said anything about his sense of humor? I had not expected any laughter in our marriage, never having observed my parents laugh at themselves. But God in His infinite wisdom sent me a man whose dry wit and wacky sense of humor continues to make life entertaining. Who else can kid with me in a serious tone of voice?
Me:        Hey, it’s our 20th anniversary next year. Want to renew our vows?
Him:      Ah … I don’t think so.
Me:        Why not? We didn’t have any money when we got married. This time we could have a nice party.
Him:      That’s just it.
Me:         What is IT?
Him:       Honestly? Well, after nearly 20 years, I don’t think I can declare “I do” again in front of so many people.
Me:          You’re joking, right?

So maybe I can’t get the guy to walk down the aisle again. Heck, I can’t even get him to hold my hand while taking a moonlit stroll in a scene straight out from the movies: waves lapping, yachts berthed by the quay, lights twinkling across the river, etc …. Sigh… Moonlit strolls at forty-five are so, so vastly different from nighttime walks at twenty-five.

 

Btw, I’m older than forty-five, it just sounds better than forty-six or forty-seven or forty-eight. Whereas my hand would have been grasped tightly twenty years ago, today I know my place. Had I tripped (little chance of that really since he convinced me to abandon my heels in favor of flats but still, it was dark), a dent to my pride would have been nothing compared to the dent to his pocket that a damaged Nikon D7100 camera would give. Reality blues, er, bites ….
So yes, the honeymoon phase of our marriage has been over for quite some time. I suspect it’s been over far longer for him than for me, though, he being the breadwinner and all. Recently, he threw a book off the bed and asked in an irritated voice “Can I have a rest day tomorrow, please?” Good thing his glance did not fall on the book’s title: Confessions of a Slacker Wife by Muffy Mead-Ferro.
Meanwhile, the children are growing up and our hairs are turning gray. By the grace of God, however, our life together continues to be a

romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship — camaraderie — usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death—that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.                                                                                                                                                                                              Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

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