“Marriage is, after all, a looking back and a looking forward, always in hope.”
– Jeannie Ewing
I noticed her nestled in a corner booth, a fresh corsage pinned to her tidy pink blazer. She seemed engaged in conversing with what appeared to be her husband of many years. You can tell through a person’s body language how long they have known the other – the way her hand moved and he would respond with a subtle nod.
Ben and I were not connecting well, though we both attempted to. Our annual expensive meal at a local steakhouse for our anniversary brought us to a place of reconnection. But we kept falling short, somehow missing each other like an archer shooting arrows well past the target and into oblivion.
There was a moment I tuned Ben out so that I could glance once more at her silver coiffed hair, neatly tucked behind her ears with a headband. I offered no one in particular a wry smile and thought, “I hope that’s Ben and me one day…”
The thought spurred fresh hope in me as I sniffed my cabernet, savoring the notes of tart berries. Ben’s mood was far more serious than mine, which was unusual. He believed himself a failure, as he tends to do when met with my brutal honesty – though I told him, truthfully, as always, I just felt invisible to him that day.
Which is to say quite a lot, since I felt classy in my new-to-me, off-the-shoulder black dress and red flats. I’d completed my look with bright red lipstick. As I prepped for our dinner earlier that evening, I saw a woman in the mirror who’d gained wisdom and a deeper beauty than she’d expressed before. I liked her – finally – and I wanted Ben to like her, too.
He overlooked me, too consumed, I guess, with lists and paperwork and chores. I’d hoped I might spark in him that same relish he carried in his eyes on our wedding day fourteen years ago. But I saw no delight and so mine withered, too.
To my great surprise, the woman and her husband approached us after they’d finished their meal. She placed her hand on my shoulder, smiled, and said, “I noticed you’re celebrating something special tonight and I just wanted to tell you how lovely you look.”
Considering this an open invitation for brief conversation, I replied, “Thank you. It’s our fourteenth wedding anniversary today.” She and her husband laughed. “It’s our forty-eighth!” We exchanged congratulations before she continued, “I know these years are hard. I remember them well.” Turning to Ben, she said carefully, “Be sure to take care of her always.” Her husband said to me, “And you care for him, too.” They concluded nearly in unison, “Be good to each other.”
Be good to each other, I thought. Five words that hold so much power.
In some strange twist of events, I believed this encounter was a divine appointment, a gift. The very couple I’d been admiring was admiring us – they with a sense of nostalgia, I with a sort of longing. Both filled with hope and gratitude.
I suppose, in a way, that’s what love is, after all, at least married love, anyway – a looking back and a looking forward, always in hope.
Without hope, how can anyone survive the travails of life?
Questions for Reflection:
1. How has your primary vocation challenged you to look at love in a deeper sense?
2. To what do you look forward and back with great hope?
3. What does the phrase ‘be good to each other’ mean to you today?