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They sat eagerly engaged,
this young man and his soon to be
smiling upon me as they surely smiled
for all the world to see.
Full of the giddiness that comes when
idealism and love
interlock hands and gaze.

I asked them where they would like to be
twenty-five years from now.
He said in their home, with children, working,
going about life.
She the same.
And I hope that for them, too:
a stable, nurturing place
no longer driven by idealism,
but the patient, long-suffering love
that can sustain a life together
as husband and wife.

He sat in the chair as though
a stranger to himself,
looking for that one to cling to
who was no more,
for whom his heart ached.

72 years of life together
had impressed itself upon him;
he knew not how to make time pass
without her presence.

I asked him what he remembered
from twenty-five years ago
from fifty, from seventy-two.
And with the tears pooling,
he told me of his bride to be
sitting in his '36 Ford,
and about dressing her up last Saturday
for the Lawrence Welk show,
to sit beside her on the couch
and to feel the great assurance of intimate knowledge.

Old man can you tell these novice two
what great love you have known?

Can you speak into the eager hearts
the knowledge of how
thrilling romance must give way
to consistent selflessness?

Can you tell them that this road
called marriage
can twist and bend and mend the two into one,
like roots grown together deep in the ground?

Can you let them know that
a life together is nothing we shape to our own
ideals or expectations,
but that it shapes us beyond our tiny selves?

Can you tell them that their love affair
will break their hearts when the bond is broken
by death?

Of course you cannot,
though you might try.

In fidelity, while there might be
many examples and mentors,
there is no instruction but
moment upon moment of kindness and gentleness,
day upon day of failure and forgiveness,
and year after year of faithful endurance.

It will take us where we dare not go,
humbled, broken, grateful and longing.


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