Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grandma's diaries and the identity of a marriage

I am the happy current possessor of my late grandmother's journals.  They were passed around the family for ten years or so before they got to me.  But now i have them.  And i love them.  Journals are neat to read because you get to know that person's individual writing style/thinking style while you're reading.  Grandma's journals start in the late 70s.  She's not a big talker.  She doesn't go on and on about her thoughts.  She mostly makes a record of the weather, where she went that day, who she saw, and sometimes gives a one or two word commentary about how she enjoyed that day.  Grandma's entries are so short that a 5x7 inch page usually has 4 days worth of entries on it - and sometimes as many as 8!  

I noticed something interesting in Grandma's writing that i later realized i recognized from the familial jargon of her children (my aunts, uncles and dad).  It's has to do with identifying a married couple by one name.  Most of the people she talks about were her own family, so calling them by their last name wouldn't do.  But she doesn't say "Bob & Sue," either.  Instead, when Bob and Sue get married, they become "Bobs."  It's true.

Here's her entry from July 4, 1977:

"A hot muggy day.  Went to Eureka school for picnic.  Came home around 4 pm.  Then went with Johns [her son, John, and his wife] up to Verns [again, Vern and his wife] for supper and home made ice cream, then to St. Johns [a town, this time] to see fire works..."

In another entry, she curiously says, "Elams and I went to...."  Elam was her brother-in-law.  But Elams referred to the unit of her sister, Clara, and her brother-in-law, Elam.

O.k., o.k., stick with me.  I'm going somewhere with this.

Blessedly, i do not come from a divorced family.  My parents (aka "Daves") were married before my conception, and remain married to this day.  But i remember the first time i learned about a divorce that was close to me.  

I was in college, and in a telephone conversation with my mom, i learned that a couple that had been close to our family since i was a little girl, had divorced.  I surprised both myself and my mother when i burst into uncontrollable tears.  The news completely shocked me, and my emotional hinges came completely undone.  I could not reconcile this tragic and untimely loss.

Recently, a friend and co-worker of mine learned of the tragic and untimely death of someone close to her, while she was work.  As you would expect, she burst into uncontrollable tears.  Her cries, briefly heard throughout the office, could be easily recognized as a response to the news of a death of someone close to her.  Her heart was torn in two as her emotional hinges came completely undone because she could not reconcile this tragic and untimely loss.

It's easy to think that a marriage affects only the two people who made the vows - and possibly their children.  But i beg to differ.  A marriage is more than a commitment of a man and a woman to love, honor, and cherish.  It is the birth of someone new.  Sure, there are two individuals involved, but the culmination of the two have "become one."  The Bible talks about this over and over (Matthew 19; Mark 10; 1 Corinthians 6; Ephesians 5), and while it's easy to see how we become "one flesh," in the marital bed, i believe we also become one entity.  In our marriage, we become the "Bobs," or the "Daves," or the "Jones's," or "Brangelina," or "MereandJere," or whathaveyou. 

me and the gunslinger on our birthday

It's the reason that i'm pathetic when my husband is out of town.

In marriage, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  A marriage takes on its own identity and personality.  A marriage has a birth, called a wedding.  And sometimes a marriage has an untimely and tragic death, called a divorce.  Hopefully, with God's help, a marriage dies of old age along with its members.
I'm not saying that the members of the marriage don't have their own separate personalities and identities.  They do, (and, incidentally, it's kind of important that they do, so the marriage doesn't become weird and codependent and other psychological messes).  But they also make up part of another personality, which is the pairing of the two.

My husband used to think it was a very silly thing to get an anniversary card for another couple.  He felt that anniversaries were for the folks involved in the marriage.  And he made a good argument, so i agreed.  :) 

In recent years, the marital unit of the oft-famed gun-slingin-super-hero and me, have been witness to several marital deaths that were close to us.  We have grieved and mourned as "Bobs" became Bob  and   Sue-and-the-kids, and some of our opinions have changed.

As we grow and experience, we realize that marriages, like people, benefit from friends and big brothers and sisters, and parents, and food and commitment and encouragement.  We've become more interested in strengthening other marriages and seeing them grow.

marital unit, jamesandbeth, 
in our teen years

What's my point?  Well, maybe this is just good food for thought.  It's something i've been pondering.  I've been pondering it as i pray with a marriage close to me as they pray for a marriage close to them that looks to be dying.  Why does it hurt so much?  Why do i care if the one become two?  Maybe i think we've all gotten a little too islandish (yes i just made up that word) in our view of marriage.  And i know that most people have no idea what marriage is at all.  Most people think that they can remain two parts in a marriage. But it doesn't work.  The two must become one.  That means commitment to each other.  As the scriptures i cited above describe, loving the other as your own flesh.  The two parts of a marital unit have to be on the same team, or they will commit marital suicide.  

If you are having a hard time with this concept, let me present one more image that i hope will help you.  Then i'll stop yammering.

Consider a wagon wheel -- or a bicycle wheel.  Imagine that the center of the wheel represents God.  No matter how far apart on the wheel you and your spouse seem to be, if you both move toward God, you will automatically come closer to each other.

1 comment:

  1. That is very good Beth. Just one technical point though. The John Mom was talking about in her log was not her son. It was her land lord. :) You would have no way of knowint that though.

    Love you Baby


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