Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love is Work Unless You Miss the Bus


My parents celebrated 33-years of marriage this past July 9. They are one of the ONLY
couples among my many friends who have weathered the storms of life and can still stand together, wedding bands intact. They still sleep in the same bed. My mother’s description of their early years is not pretty, poetic, or fairytale.

My mom worked in a local bakery in a busy area of downtown Louisville. My dad was a mechanic working on Mercedes also downtown several blocks away from my mom. They had been courting off and on for nearly 5 years. On July 9th, 1976 they took their lunch breaks, respectively and met at the courthouse (yes, the courthouse) with my aunt and uncle in tow for witnesses. My grandfather did not walk my mom down the aisle. My mom did not have matching bridesmaid gowns. There was no limo, hair, make-up or song selection. She wore a a very 70's blouse and skirt. My dad wore his mechanics uniform, a dark navy with a light pin stripe and sewn on name tag. There was not even a honeymoon planned. Instead, that afternoon, they spent 30-minutes getting married and then each returned to work to finish out their shifts not telling my grandparents what they had done until several days later. There is only one wedding picture and my mom's hair is big, a classic 70's portrait.

Soon, my mom said she found herself in a new empty house with a crying newborn (that would be me….I was a crier!). She had no car, few friends and suddenly took on a traditional wife role of cooking, cleaning, and changing my diapers. Mom kept the house in balance. My dad worked long days, sometimes 14-hours or more. He would come home often after 8 or 9 and I could hear my parents "discussing" (some may use the word "arguing") whatever trivial crisis that came up that week (furniture, car parts, mortgage, doctor visits).

Few people truly know my dad. He is a man of few words. He is my hero. I look up to my dad like no other. But he too will occasionally chime in during one of these story sessions saying, “yeah, it was rough.” But when I ask my parents about their 33-years, they say they would change nothing. They do not want to be with other people. They do not see themselves without each other and they attribute this to WORK…the work of a relationship.

My mom can tell you about every character flaw of my dad. He is not an emotional guy. He can be forgetful, picky, needy, and sometimes surly. My dad can tell you, my mom is a fighter, a woman with a lot of words, a voice raiser, a worrier, and a crier (she will cry over commercials). So, how do two people who are seemingly SO OPPOSITE, make it work? THEY NEVER QUIT. First and foremost, my parents share a passion for many of the same things in their lives. They love to garden…they love to refurbish houses and while they may not agree on the placement of a plant or what color to paint a room, it is their passion they share and they make it work.

So, here is the funny thing…(maybe not so funny depending on how you look at it)

I have NOT done this. I have rarely put WORK into a relationship. Why? I had this fairytale idea that the work was a myth and that everything about a relationship should happen effortlessly, be easy, and simple. My parents CONSTANTLY corrected me on this (The…”I told you so” speech) as they would see me often dispose (yes, I said dispose) of boyfriends not so shyly. Once I found a severe flaw in the relationship, I sent them packing, not looking back. Then, I turned 30…and somewhere between adopting a cat and growing tired of cooking for one, I realized if I was EVER going to be a partner, I needed to put in the work, 110%....and be flexible, compromise, and most of all, work through it.

But I waited too long, kinda like standing at the bus stop and letting all the busses pass you by until there are none left. Crap! My procrastination has consequence, penalty, and outcome. The biggest lessons I have learned have been noted by those closest to me….(1) I am emotional, I cry, and I get hurt, (2) It takes me a while to trust….to truly believe that someone will be there and not leave (3) I do not dispose of people in my life anymore. I guess I have grown up. I have always been a little slow….a little behind the norm, on the periphery of the bell curve….but I get it now.

Have you ever seen someone chase after a bus? C’mon, you know you have….and have you ever seen the bus not stop? It happens. But sooner or later, I will get on….and I will not even care where the bus is going.

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