January 3rd, 37 years ago we married. We stood at the front of the First Presbyterian Church of Dalhart Texas and plighted our troth (love that phrase….how many times can you say “plighted your troth”).
It was cold, it was clear, the sky was blue. Marty reminded me today that it was 1 p.m. on that first Saturday in January when we did that troth thing.
I don’t really remember standing at the front of the church; I don’t really remember saying the words. We have pictures that prove we stood there and walked the aisle so I know I did, I know we did, but I don’t remember the specifics at all, except through the pictures.
I do know what we said; I know we promised things, important things, deep things. I know, on the whole, for these 37 years we have kept those promises, in health and even in sickness.
I can’t say for sure I would have made those promises had I known the future. I can’t say I would have stood there, irrevocably confident in the future, if I had been able to see 30 years in the future. I don’t know for certain I would have been able to promise the whole sickness and health thing if I had known, 30 years later, Marty would slump over, her face slack, without muscle control, unable to speak, broken by the second stroke. I just can’t say if I would have stood there and promised my faith and love to someone who would break in such a terrible way.
Today, on this day, we went to see Les Miserables. Marty loves musical theater and Les Mis is one of her favorites. I love it too and they have done an excellent job with this film. If memory serves Marty first saw Les Mis in Houston with our daughter Erin. I apparently was too busy being a captain of industry to go. I first saw it in London with Marty, Matt and Erin. I was moved then, I was moved again today, for a lot of reasons.
I have always loved the music, it feels so lyrical, it builds emotion throughout the production. Marty loved the music and the words. The words, the ideas behind the words moved her.
The movie, like the play, climaxes as all of the intertwined main characters come together, as Valjean plaintively tells Cossette in music how she had brought him to God, how she had taught him to love and “to love another person is to see the face of God”, I cried again, just like I did the first time I heard the song.
Today it wasn’t just the music and lyrics , it was more than that, it was also the memory of sitting with my Marty and holding her hand as tears drifted down her cheeks because of the those words.
Those words meant a lot to her, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” As I look back at our life I realize why those words tugged at her, those words closely defined her own thoughts about love….and about God.
Marty doesn’t cry anymore, a gift and a curse, mostly a curse. She sat there with me and watched this very long movie dry eyed as I took my sweatshirt and dabbed my own eyes. I believe, somewhere, somewhere deep in her soul, that part of her that loves and cherishes music, that part of her that loves and cherishes those words, that part of her that loves and cherishes me was just as moved today as she was the first time we saw Les Mis together.
It was right and fitting that on our 37th anniversary we found ourselves sitting together, listening to this magic, together once again. And yes, I cried again, not sobbing like a child, I cried man tears, wet cheeks and stuffed nose in the protective dark of a theater, with my broken wife.
If I had known the future, if I had realized the pain and trauma of the strokes, I can’t say for certain if I would have had the courage to stand there that cold day so many years ago and made promises. I can say for certain that if I had seen the future and known how I would feel on this day I know for certain I would have said those words.