Almost half a century of marriage
Today is my parents’ 46th wedding anniversary. I know. Forty six years is a long time. When I came along they had already been together 9 years, had 2 boys, and had separated at least once. I think most of us know being married is not easy. I am sure at one time or another we all thought it was a natural and easy thing. Let me rephrase that. Some of us might have thought at one point in time that being married was natural and easy – if we are lucky. I consider myself blessed in many areas of my life. But I honestly believe that where I caught the biggest break was being born into this family and everything else stems from there.
You see, I am one of those lucky people that can remember the blissful time when I never questioned the institution of marriage, the conventional family and all that jazz. It was the way things were, it was natural, meant to be, easy. The tricky thing is that I remember, more or less, when I started to realize that it was not easy and that is where luck comes in. Because I believe the dysfunction most people have in this area is because they get stuck in the fact that it’s never easy, or it should be easy, or when it was easy and why isn’t it easy anymore, yadda yadda yadda. Successful parenting (IMHO) is when your kids think it’s easy, and gradually realize it is not easy as they mature and come to terms with that. A successful family is one that overcomes hardship, which every family faces, and comes out on the other side thinking “things are still OK”. Striving to be this Norman Rockwell painting should have gone out… well, with Norman Rockwell. Reality is a constantly growing and evolving process. A successful marriage, a successful family, is one that is in constant evolution and that is never easy because people seldom evolve in the same direction. I am not saying our is the best way or the only way, but it is our way and the only way I can speak of intelligently.
When we lived in
New York (keep in mind when we left when I was 7 years old) our home was a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment in the projects of the South Bronx. My oldest brother was a teenager who got in trouble a lot and that was the extent of the drama as far as I was concerned. And even that seemed normal, I mean what teenager does not get in trouble from time to time? It wasn’t until we were in Puerto Rico and we changed our lives that I started realizing that this family business can be hard. When my older brother decided to go back to New York and got in real trouble, and mom had to leave to go help get him out of it, and I saw the tears, and heard my father yelling over the phone at my aunt’s house (we still didn’t have one or our own) about it. I look at my younger nieces now 5 and 10 and wonder about it. What do they know of their family’s difficulties? When I was 10 I was already aware of the concept of “marital troubles” between mom and dad. I knew by then that there were things going on that I was not privy to and that these things were major grown up stuff. But at the end of it all, there was always mom and dad together, the five of us, a family. Even though I learned about “trouble” I also learned at a young age that trouble was something you can overcome and come out together from. It is a lesson I am afraid not everyone has learned. We have had some struggles, but in the end we are always there for each other, that's the lesson.
By the time I was 12, I knew my family was special. In my neighborhood there were a lot of single moms, a lot of my friends had awful stepdads, some had no father figure at all, some only wished they didn’t. I saw abusive family settings all around. I would not say domestic violence was an everyday issue, but I sure witnessed it a lot by the time I graduated high school. I heard the yelling, I saw the beatings, but I always had my home to go to. As my big brother put it once “We have a great anchor in mom and dad.” And that is exactly what they are: an anchor that no matter what we saw, whatever we went through, we had something to keep us steady. It is the most valuable thing they gave me. That, and good hair. J
Between my two brothers and I we have been married 5 times. I guess this does not run in the family... j/k! I cannot speak for my brothers or their marriages, I can only speak for myself. The first time I got married I was 24 and too young. Yes, I had been on my own, yes I had a college degree and had started grad school, but looking back I was definitely wet behind the ears. My parents never told me not to get married – that might have been because I eloped to Vegas, but that’s the subject of another posting- and I never saw them tell my brothers not to marry either. Maybe it’s because they thought we were all old enough to make our own choices. Maybe they knew they had done the best they could and they had to let us be. Maybe they just enjoy being spectators to our dramas? Who knows? When they got married my mom had just turned 19, my dad was all of 22, but he was a grown man and she was a grown woman and no one would have said in 1964 that they were too young. I know it was a different time but they had very different childhoods then my siblings and I did. They knew what hardship was, they knew poverty, they knew hard work.
I look back at my 5 year marriage as a starter marriage, but never a mistake. I learned a lot about marriage those 5 years, I learned a lot about life and most of all I learned a lot about myself. In the end, we were able to walk away from each other before it got ugly, and remained friends for a long time after the initial separation and divorce. That marriage was a lesson I had to learn in order to be the awesome person that I am today. (please, no comments on my goddez complex. I’ve heard them all before). But I owe that to my parents and the excellent example they set for me. That I was able to look at my life, change what needed to be changed, and move on to a better life is one of those things that you can do when you have a good support system, and the strength of a good anchor. When I told my parents we were separating my mom was in shock first, later she cried. My dad said: “Do what you have to do. Better to walk away as friends than wait for it to get ugly.” Enough said.
I hate to be a cliché. I hate being a statistic. Unfortunately, it is true that 75% of people who get married in their 20s end up divorcing, and only 25% of those who marry in their 30s do so- in this case, I am liking my odds. I also would like to add that 58.63% of statistics are made up on the spot. I won’t go on and on about how great I am, or how great my super hero husband is because if you keep up with the Country Rican you already know that. But we are awesome. I am sure that is because we married when we were ready, after 5 years of dating, and we both have parents that have been together for over four decades and taught us the value of it. My parents are awesome. So are my in-laws, by the way.
I guess what I want to say is that I don’t want my marriage to be a Norman Rockwell painting, we are not going to be the Brady’s or the Huxtable’s or the Keaton’s. And that’s just fine by me because life’s problems cannot usually be fixed in 30 minutes. A true marriage takes a lot of work, has a lot of ups and downs, and relationships are always hard work. Even between siblings, friends, coworkers, all relationships are complex and require work.
So, as the daughter or an awesome couple who has been through it all in 46 years, my advice to the parents who are reading this is let your kids know that you are not perfect, and that you have to work at your relationships, and they will be better for it. Let them see you fight, then let them see you make up.
I leave you with the words of the great Bill Cosby:
“That married couples can live together day after day is a miracle that the
has overlooked.” Vatican
Los quiero viejos...