Marriage is a topic I really shouldn't weigh in about, at least not what makes a successful one. I won't tell you how many times I have done it, but it's been more than once, and, if you want a clue, how many fingers do you have on each hand (unless you have lost a couple in an industrial accident) ?. Second hint:, I have had wives of four different nationalities.
How all of this happened, I really don't remember. Or, as the American mafia guys say in court: "I plead the 5th.Amendment on the grounds that anything I say could tend to incriminate me"
The one I have now will be my last. For one thing, she is the lady I have loved the most, lasted the longest with (before Liubov it was always a series of Five-Year-Plans) and probably the one who, while seeming to have no idea of what I am on about half the time, perhaps knows me the best... Or at least knows the form of incarceration (maximum or minimum security) that is best suited to be me at any given moment.
There are other reasons. One, we are both getting old. Fact. (Who the hell else would want us now??) Of course, THIS is something that my raging temperament will never publicly accept. On a good day, I still think I am Jack the Lad. (It's probably going to take a good beating from some guy in the street to talk me out of that belief, but so far the beating hasn't happened, and I don't think it will any time soon, but maybe some day..)
Or -- second reason -- perhaps it's because our marriage has somehow managed to survive all the obvious jumping off points that have presented themselves, including my 'mirthful and harmless' infidelities during our time apart... Or maybe it's because of what we have invested in each other (car, house, etc. -- why piss it all away?). That's what holds a lot of these so-called marriages together. In America, they used to have a great expression for it:" it's cheaper to keep her.",
Or maybe it's because of the children, which in our case means The Dogs (that could be the answer!!) I can say honestly that I would never, under any circumstances, consider leaving my wife as long as we have these dogs. And I am sure she feels the same.
Or maybe it's because, finally, we have passed all of the basic tests. Our marriage has survived suspicion, anger, boredom, and resentment. The hurricane is over, and we have lasted. Here we are on the shore, gathering seashells. There is nothing left to fight about -- and of the 'fight'' itself -- the fight that is marriage -- nobody won and nobody lost.
Now we are friends. Friends forever or until death.
The question, therefore: why, in this day and age, has the idea or institution of marriage seemingly lost its force? Or has it? Less people, here in Russia and elsewhere, seem to feel the need for it, and yet many people eventually succumb to the idea or the fantasy or the sense of ritual and obligation. I am glad when they do.
I guess, at deepest heart, I subscribe to the notion that real, true love requires some sort of stamp of affirmation passing forth between the couple involved and the community of which they will choose to remain part of. It is a ritual that many, many people have dispensed with, declaring their love to be a matter of ''free choice'' instead of the legal obligation, and yet...still people get married, and I am pleased.
Many times, while walking in Moscow amid the more popular 'post-Zags- areas'' -- I mean the various parks and bridges -- I have seen the bride and groom together, just after the ceremony. This, I think, is their big moment, for the guy of course but especially (so tradition has it) for the bride. When I look at these people (the photographer is always present) I see a moment which has been given over to happiness but which may prove sadly transitory. They pose for the camera..Usually, the bride is pretty -- at least not a monster. Everybody is happy, at least officially so. I want them to be happy.
When we are young, we tend to get caught up in the 'here and now'', and we think it will never end. To an older person, this blind sense of immortality, when observed in those still 'young and 'wet behind the ears'' may seem beautiful enough to be envied, dangerous enough to be feared, and potentially tragic enough to be avoided. Another thing: as you grow old -- and if you have read your biology in school and not allowed too much pie-in-the-sky religion and astrology to befog your mind -- you will understand that the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament got it right: There is a season for everything. A time to sow and a time to reap, etc. There is a season for young roses and one for old roses too. The most magnificent women we can see in Moscow now will one day be, as the Irish poet Yeats expressed it, ''old and gray and full of sleep.'' Death's honesty comes to us all.
I fight with all my might not to relinquish the stage. I struggle to stay young. But I also see that for me the mating season is over. Over the past ten years in Moscow, I have known some much younger women may be more intimately than would meet with general public approval. Those ladies, then in their 20s are now in their 30s, married and with children. They did not marry me, but men their own age with whom they could make a future. The clock is ticking for them too. One hopes that they will be happy.
In the midst of all this, my love for my wife has grown and grown. It does so more every year. She doesn't look the same as when she was a young, tall, beautiful Siberian woman. And I don't look like I did when I was playing football back in America. But after everything else has passed us by, we are still together, like two oak trees.
I have a good friend whose parents are thinking of splitting up after 30 years together. I confess I do not understand how this could be possible. If they were that miserable all along, why did they stay together? And now...???
My motto is this: every year I am your friend, I become your deeper and truer friend. I understand the power of betrayal; I understand how one single crazy word or deed can destroy a relationship of many years, just as a lovingly cultivated garden can be trampled in two minutes, and a building constructed over many months can burn to the ground in an hour. But I don't understand how people can just ''get tired'' of each other and walk away after so long. Have their souls not mingled as well their gene pool when they made their children? How can you say goodbye after all that?
People get married because, after all the Feminist rantings, self-help books, and ultimately arid, lifeless technology, they still seek peace, shelter, and the heart's truth in ancient ritual -- and, above all, in each other -- just as herds of wild animals stand together, believing that there is safety in numbers. We get married because we believe in symbols: not because we really, truly buy into the words of the priest or even because we are absolutely convinced that it will all last forever. In the present Age, we understand that nothing lasts very long At All. But somehow, when I introduce the woman at my side to others by saying, "I want you to meet my WIFE", I feel proud. And less alone. I feel that I am presenting to the world some permanent part of my life and myself.
Yesterday, my great wife and I went for our usual late afternoon walk with our equally great dogs. As the rich autumn fields, the golden sun lightly burning overhead, swallowed us in their high furrows amid the increasing shadows, I looked at Liuba, and I suddenly understood: I was not lonely.
Because of her, I WAS NOT LONELY.
Old age will come and the crows will sit on the gates outside. In the winter skies, the wind will howl with sorrowful sounds. But...for a little while...I will have the burning fire, something to eat, the television showing a film or maybe the news of distant wars, all manner of tribulation and of fanatical striving. In the darkness by the rasping embers, three pairs of eyes will glow in my direction. Casper, Poppy, and LIUBA. I would never trade any of this. Not now.
Whoever you are, I hope you will always have something to call HOME, and may you never grow old ALONE.
===Eric Richard Leroy===