When we were first married, we made lots of adjustments. I like to plan; he likes to fly by the seat of his pants. He used to like to camp; I was not that gung-ho about it. I like to eat dinner early; he prefers to eat later. I could go on, but you get the idea. Over the years, we’ve compromised. He lets me plan; I learned to enjoy camping. We eat whenever now.
A major issue used to be making the bed in the morning. I cannot stand an unmade bed. My mother insisted that we make our beds every morning as soon as we were able to pull the spread up by ourselves. She didn’t require perfection, just a semblance of neatness. My husband doesn’t see the point of making a bed. “You’re just going to mess it up again at night,” he says. So, we resolved that whoever left the bed last had to make it in the morning. That turned out to be the best compromise ever! He always makes sure he’s up before me. He brews the coffee and brings me a cup. He prints the NY Times puzzle for us both, and brings a copy down to my desk. When I was still working and he was retired, he packed my lunch too. My making the bed is a small chore by comparison. We’re both happy.
Several years ago we attended a wedding where they did the “Who is married longest” dance. My husband and I “won.” We were asked to give the newly weds advice. My husband said, “I get up in the morning, and I ask her what I’m doing that day. Then, I do it.” That’s his sense of humor, and after all, what could he have said that would have mattered on the evening of their first day as husband and wife?
Dr. Joyce Brothers once told Johnny Carson that the secret to marriage was to stay together. She said something like, “In all the years that we’ve been married, I never considered divorce. Murder, maybe, but never divorce.” Again, humor disguised as advice. Let me end with this thought. Love is not a feeling; it’s a commitment. All the rest is just hubub.
Kevin Powers, author of “The Yellow Birds,” a National Book Award finalist, published a splendid essay on Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five at 50,” in which he discussed the novel’s moral clarity in the trauma of war. He recounts an incident that occurred when he was on duty in Iraq as a sniper. He watched as a group of soldiers opened fire on a small white car driven by an old woman with an elderly male passenger, both waving white flags. Even though Powers called “All clear,” intuiting that the occupants were merely trying to get out of the area, the soldiers began shooting, riddling the small car with bullets. Powers writes: “…the old man and the old woman were both dead. So it goes. They have been dying in my mind every day for the last 14 years. I suspect they will do so until I’ve exhausted my own days on this earth. this is my moment trapped in amber.”
Powers describes his affinity for the novel and how reading it over time has provided him with a clarity that cuts through self-deception. He calls the book “…among the most humane works of art ever created.” I, myself, have read and reread “Slaughterhouse Five” over the years, but I’ve never considered it in the context Powers provides. Another reread is in my future.
If you google “essential books” or “top 25 novels to read before you die,” (as I just did), you might be as surprised as I am at the lists provided. Clearly, one’s taste in reading is personal, and reading is an intimate, engaging, as well as edifying pastime. My essential author (Jane Austen) may provoke a “you’re kidding me” response from another. Still, I never let a Christmas season go by without rereading “Pride and Prejudice.”
What novels are on your “essential” list? What authors would you recommend?
My granddaughter took the MCATS recently. Afterwards, she texted me a smile emoji, a heart emoji, a plus sign and a capital G. I haven’t the vaguest idea what she meant. I get the heart and the smile, but the plus sign and the G? Dunno. That’s okay. I get the gist. I can guess that she’s feeling good about the test. Maybe she just had a slip of the thumb.
When I was in high school, I took Shorthand, and I still use it for taking notes, making lists, reminders to myself, etc. My grandchildren call it my secret code. Emojis are a sort of secret code, I suppose. Google tells me there are 2823 emojis. Wow! There are dozens of smiley face emojis, some of which I find downright creepy.
It’s all Greek to me. (from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar–see yesterday’s post).
I’ve written before about my technological illiteracy. I’m flummoxed by emojis, but I do know shorthand! And it’s Monday “to boot” (also from Shakespeare, Sonnet 135).
Forgive me. I’m rushed this morning, and like Mark Twain who didn’t have time enough to write a short letter, I’m using my lack of time to excuse this unorganized slice today.
“I like the play and all, but it’s full of cliches. How come you don’t let us write them in our essays but it’s okay for Shakespeare to do it?”
The play is Hamlet or to be precise “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, tragedy in five acts.” The lines my student noticed were not cliches when they were written, of course, but they have been quoted and repeated so often that they have become worn-out expressions.
“Sweets to the sweet”
“There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark”
“To thine own self be true”
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”
“To be or not to be; that is the question”
“To sleep perchance to dream”
“Brevity is the soul of wit.”
“One may smile and smile and be a villian”
“Conscience doth make cowards of us all”
“Good night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
There are more, but the one I repeated to my own children, when they were in the middle of complaining about one thing or another has served me well: “There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” My husand’s drier interpretation: “Don’t think about it and it won’t bother you.” Neither expression turned their frowns upside down, however.
“That’s so lame,” Mom–no Shakespeares they.
“A” you’re adorable, “B” you’re so beautiful, “C” you’re a cutie full of charms…
Don’t think less of me, but I have a hard time sustaining loving relationships with people whose political views are the polar opposite of mine. My brother-in-law, an intelligent and thoughtful human being, will make a statement about a certain political figure, and I’ll have to leave the room. It’s not productive to engage by countering with facts; once opinions and emotions are tapped, civility goes on vacation.
Our neighborhood book club is a politics-free zone. After one of our members left in tears days before the 2016 election, we decided that our focus should be on the book only and not veer into the political. That commitment, though, has made our meetings more antiseptic, more like a bad high school literature class than a good conversation.
The other day I heard a talking head on CNN say that it’s our duty to seize the opportunity to participate in civil dialogue with friends and family whose outlooks differ from ours. It’s our “duty” to listen carefully and to respond with respect. That is easier said than done for me. I have a nephew, who used to refer to me as his favorite aunt, who majored in English at Princeton so he could become a teacher, and who is currently a tenured professor in a noted Catholic college. He also has unfriended me on Facebook and no longer sends me notes or even a Christmas card. It hurts my heart, but I have no recourse since I don’t even know what I said or did that annoyed him so much despite my efforts to do so.
Back in the 1960’s one of the three major networks aired the Perry Como Show, which our family watched nearly every week. One of his regular tunes was “‘A'” You’re Adorable,” an alphabet song that described all the things he loved about his gal. I used to sing this song to kids when I baby-sat them, even the aforementioned nephew, and to my own children and grandchildren. Maybe if I think of my polar opposites in terms of their positive qualities and tell them what they mean to me, we’ll all be better for it. What do you think?
Remember rainy days when you were a kid? I do. I didn’t like being indoors no matter the season, and I still don’t. Of course I know the benefits of rain; I know we need rain; I know it becomes a source of fresh water and all that. But still, can’t it just rain in the evening when nobody needs to be out and about? You know, like it does in Camelot.
Maybe raining only at night wouldn’t solve the problem for me anyway. Last night we lost power for about 20 minutes around midnight. I had been sound asleep when my husband rose to check the basement.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to check the basement, see if the sump pump is working.”
“Then, why bother? If the power is out, the sump pump isn’t working and there’s not one thing we can do about it. Get back into bed before you kill yourself in the dark.”
Husbands! Rain! Power outages! Things that go bump in the night!
Can you tell I’m having a real problem writing today?
This is not what I was going to write about today.
Yesterday afternoon I got word that a friend and former colleague who has moved to Florida, has a malignant tumor on her spine. I spoke to her several days ago before the surgery. She was cheerful and upbeat and hanging on the words of her doctor: “I’m 99% sure it’s not malignant.”
Her husband sent a text yesterday to her friends. She is resting comfortably, he said, but he asked that we not contact her for at least a week. She will be in the hospital until Tuesday or Wednesday.
And today’s weather, once again, sinks to the occasion–rainy, raw, and dreary. I’m in the depression stage of grief, learning to live with the loss of loved ones.
Thanks for reading.