Tomorrow I plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with the woman I love. It'll be our 61st, and I just feel I need to say a few things about her and our time together.
I have to admit that I was inspired by some things our daughter Sherry said on Facebook in praise of her mother. I was also moved by an article about marriage that I saw and partially read on Facebook.
Many books and articles have been written about marriage. A few clicks on the "marriage" label on this blog will produce some of my thoughts as well as my responses to the thoughts of others. I must admit that I find many of these articles boring, especially, though not exclusively, those with a "Christian" theme. While the secular world has many dumb things to say, I find that the Christian world often has just as many: "Marriage is not 'for me,'" (i.e., for my benefit) or "marriage is not for my happiness." Marriage is perceived as some grand spiritual exercise. Either that or some romantic drama to be acted out according to prescribed rules. If I read enough of these articles I might begin to believe that my 57+ years of marital happiness with Uni are just a colossal failure. But I don't think they are.
So maybe I just ought to tell our story.
When I first met Uni, she was 15 and I was 16, she was a high school sophomore and I was a junior. I was smitten by her beauty, by her smile and her flirtatiousness. We dated for two years, my last two in high school. She became my best friend, and I found that she was as beautiful inwardly as she was outwardly. She demonstrated a genuine love for every person she met.
Well anyway, after I had graduated and she entered her senior year, we got engaged. We hadn't gone through any deep soul-searching or Scripture searching; we hadn't taken any tests or surveys to ascertain our compatibility; we simply knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We were best friends, we were in love and were (don't be shocked!) horny teenagers (1 Corinthians 7:9).
We've been asked by many young people how I proposed (the first step in a romantic ritual). They're usually disappointed with the story we tell, but here it is.
Uni: "They've got a sale on rings at the jewelry story downtown."
Me: "OK! You wanna go look at 'em?"
So we went, we found a set (you could almost see the diamond), and bought it. And with it came a free tea set. In the car in the parking lot, I slipped the engagement ring on her finger and said, "Will you marry me?" And she said, "Yes."
We went back to her house, Uni showed her Dad her new tea set, but kept the hand with the ring on it concealed.
Dad: "That's nice; what did you have to buy to get it?" (Obviously he'd seen the ad in the newspaper.)
Uni shyly showed him her left hand.
Dad: "You didn't ask me!"
Me (stammering): "Mr. Cook, can I marry your daughter?"
Dad (hesitating -- Dad could look pretty mean if he chose to): "Well -- okay!"
A year later we were married, the September after Uni graduated. Within two years of that we were expecting our second child. We now have two grown married kids and six grown grandchildren -- no greats yet.
I tell this story simply to show that our courtship and marriage did not conform to either the romantic or spiritual ideals that are so often presented.
Our marriage hasn't "succeeded" because we have done all the right things or followed all the rules. I believe this marriage succeeded because I am married to a woman who knows how to love.
I can honestly say that Uni loves everyone she meets. Her life has been a life of giving. Had she not been the loving, giving, forgiving person she is, I doubt that we could have made it. She genuinely practices the second great commandment. And she's taught me what love is and how to love.
Not that she is friends with everyone. She also knows and has taught me that if someone doesn't like her, to simply give them space. But she still shows them love.
When we were not as old as we are now, she was known as Aunt Uni to probably dozens of people. She still is to many. Now she's Gramma to at least dozens -- Grammaw or Oma or Abuelita. She's still called Mom by many.