But in truth, I don’t know why we got the happily-ever-after. It was a gift. Over the years, we’ve seen more than a few good marriages go under. We’ve seen husbands and wives do and say such terrible things to each other, children so scarred and battered by divorce and casual cruelty and simple inattention, that we have sometimes clung fearfully to each other in our bed at night like orphans in a storm.
It took us a long time to understand how blessed we were and from whom such blessings flow. The understanding made us even happier and more grateful, but it also forced humility on us. If we could claim no credit for what made our union good, we could lay no blame on others whose unions went bad. We have been poor and rich together, crazy and sane, mournful and joyous, and I can think of half a hundred times we might have gone down the wrong road or, even worse, failed to turn back and find the right one. If we fared well, it wasn’t because we were wise. It certainly wasn’t because I was wise. It was only, I think, that the power of what we felt for each other schooled us to trust in love. Love over money, love over politics, love over fashion and philosophies of life: our love and, in our love, God’s love, over all.
Ellen and I came of age in a generation that often denigrated the strength and integrity of manhood, the tenderness and generosity of femininity and — I won’t say the sanctity, but the deep worthiness of marriage between the two. We didn’t have many examples to draw from. But I had one.
My father and I disagreed on just about everything and were sometimes at daggers drawn, but his steadfast love for and kindness toward my mother were a great gift to me. Shortly before he died near the age of 80, I told him so. He was a comedian by profession and by nature, and he joked, “I’m still chasing your mother around the room— but very slowly.”
I would be glad to be able to make that joke to my son thirty years from now. Even slowly. I would be very glad.