Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Shorts: Love Is So Grand, Life Is So Daily

Photos: Tangier, May 1978

By Pat Browning

“When Ed and I decided to get married and live in his house, I wondered what to do with my camel.”

So begins a column on later-life marriage that I wrote for The Hanford Sentinel in the mid-1990s. My old friend and road buddy, Marlene (on the right in the photo), came across the clipping recently and sent me a copy. It brought back a lot of memories. The camel was a special souvenir from our 1978 trip to the Costa del Sol, with a side trip to Tangier.

We were at the dock in Tangier, ready to board the boat for the trip across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain, when the camel seller showed up. I had spent all my money. He had a credit card machine. I didn’t have a credit card. We used Marlene’s card, and I hand-carried my souvenir camel all the way home.

Here’s the column as I wrote it about 15 years after the fact.

Love is grand, life is daily.

When Ed and I decided to get married and live in his house, I wondered what to do with my camel.

We're talking trivia here. That camel is a souvenir I carted home from Tangier and kept on display to remind me of good times. By the time we moved out some of Ed's belongings, moved in some of mine, and sold or gave away the rest, there still was no place for the camel.

It's in a cabinet in the garage. I see it when I look for the electric knife.

The road to marital bliss is full of potholes at any age. Later-life marriage adds a few of its own. For openers, you have two people who are saddled with the habits of a lifetime.

You hate to get up in the morning, love to stay up at night, You're crazy about cats and like to jet off to exotic places. Why should you change?

Because there's someone sleeping in your bed who's up at the crack of dawn and thinks nine-thirty is the middle of the night, who doesn't even like dogs, and wants to visit a buddy in Oregon.

Not important, you think, but it was a straw, don't forget, that broke the camel's back. Love is so grand. Life is so daily.

For some older couples the jolt of adjusting goes right off the Richter scale. They're in a lawyer's office before the ink dries on the marriage license. Couples who make it are those who care enough to give up some attitudes that probably weren't important in the first place.

On some issues, of course, you can stand fast. For me, it's ironing shirts. I don't do shirts. Never did, never will. I'm fair, though. I don't do blouses either. If it doesn't drip dry I don't wear it.

My friend Marlene and I hashed all this out last week over a Denver sandwich and a bowl of beef barley soup. We agreed that marriage later in life is special because you're really ready to settle in and grow old with someone.

My camel was small potatoes compared with the furnishings and frou-frou Marlene kept when she got married. In a weak moment, no doubt, Wayne told her she could refurnish his house any way she wanted. Like a flash, she hauled out his stuff and moved hers in.

She sold his patio table while he was sitting at it. When he said, "Whoaaaa!" as she took his favorite mirror down from the wall, she just reminded him of his promise. She has a frog collection you wouldn't believe and dispersed it to every room in the house. Obviously, she married a saint

Couples who make it to their 40th or 50th wedding anniversary often seem so compatible that you assume the marriage was made in heaven. More likely, they just learned early on what they could or couldn't do or have, and decided that very few things are worth a fight.

As someone (Mark Twain, I think) once said, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Younger couples face the daunting task of building a life from scratch, of doing everything for the first time. Older couples are ready to start unloading responsibilities like mowing an acre of lawn twice a week. There are bank accounts, insurance policies and property titles to sort out Grown-up children don't always look kindly on Mom's or Pop's latest adventure.

But some things never change. Love is a wonder at any age. A first date is as nerve-wracking at 60 as it was at 16.

You get married when you're older for about the same reasons as when you were younger: for love and companionship, and someone to care when the world caves in on you.

It’s a bittersweet memory. Ed died in 2003. Wayne died in 2006. Marlene still has her frog collection. The camel went out with my other souvenirs in a garage sale before I left California and moved back to Oklahoma.

I have a framed snapshot of Ed sitting at our desk, playing a card game on the computer. In the background, on a corner of the desk, sits a souvenir wine bottle with a menu printed on it. It was a big bottle, either a Double Magnum or Jeroboam champagne bottle, from New Orleans.

That trip was in 1984, long before I met Ed. At some funky place in New Orleans, Marlene and I ordered a meal from the bottle, and then, of course, I bought the bottle. I hand-carried it home. Marlene carried the set of gumbo bowls I bought.

We weren’t even supposed to be there. We were supposed to be in Marrakech. Royal Air Maroc flew from New York City to Morocco once or twice a week. We had plane tickets from Fresno to JFK, through Denver, but when we got to Denver, a United Airlines employee had just rammed our plane with some kind of heavy equipment he was moving.

It was late, and no other airline had a flight that would get us to New York in time to catch Royal Air Maroc. We repaired to United’s Red Carpet club room, looked at schedules, and decided to go to New Orleans because we were wearing summer clothes.

And that is another story.

Copyright © 2009 by Pat Browning


F. M. Meredith, author said...

Great blog as usual.

Well, having been married for nearly 58 years to the same handsome sailor--well, maybe not quite as handsome as when he was 21, and he hasn't been a sailor for years--I can tell you it's never easy.

However, I wouldn't trade him for anyone.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Loved this article, Pat, and look forward to more.

I've been married to the same former sailer for 40 years and you're right, Marilyn, it's never easy, but logic tells you that you won't find anyone else better out there.

Anonymous said...

Marilyn, your Hap is a gem. And he's still cute. (-:

Jean, congrats on such a long marriage. Obviously you learned the secret along the way.

There was just something about a sailor -- must have been those bell bottom trousers and little white caps. (-:


Chester Campbell said...

I really enjoyed this one, Pat. My late marriage came at age 73. We'll celebrate our tenth anniversary next month. After a few months, we sold both our houses and bought a new, smaller one. I used to be a night owl, rarely in bed before 1 a.m. Sarah is ready to crash after the 10 o'clock news. I've learned the habit. She's not as good a traveler as I am, but we've covered beaucoup miles in the book business (signings, conferences, etc.). We argue about stuff frequently, but it always ends with a laugh. Accommodation is the name of the game.

michele said...

I'm a youngster. I've only been married 31 years but I wholeheartedly agree.

Ted's in to science fiction. I eventually got used to it. Politics is my passion. Now it's his as well. When I ran for political office and won many years ago he was there to help put together my campaign.

I'm glad that I waited unti I was in my 30's before getting married.

Michele Rosenberg

Kaye Barley said...

Pat - What a great story. I always love your stories (have I already mentioned that?). This one is quite special.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Michele and Kaye. Marriage can be good or bad, but in most cases it's what you make of it. Hard lesson to learn sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Chester, your comment about sleep habits made me laugh. Ed used to come tearing down the hall yelling, "Do you know what time it is?"

Now that he's not around to do that I sometimes stay up all night. I do NOT recommend it. I'm trying to break what has become a vicious circle.(-:


Beth Terrell said...

Pat, thanks for this great post. Mike and I will celebrate our 23rd anniversary in October. It didn't start as a late-life marriage (we were 26), but we plan for it to be that way in about 50 more years.

Mike has always been an early bird, and I'm a night owl, but we both love art, theater, reading, and animals, and no one could be more supportive of my writing. He makes me feel truly loved and blessed.

Wendy said...

Okay, have I mentioned how jealous I am of your bone structure? You look like Patricia Neal. I'd kill for those cheekbones, Browning.

Did she REALLY sell that table while he was sitting at it? LOL! That's great.

Loved it, Pat. Keep 'em coming!!

Ben Small said...

Pat, you constantly amaze me. And if you haven't read my book THE OLIVE HORSESHOE, you might enjoy it as much of it occurs in Morocco. One of the most interesting sights I saw in Morocco was a double-decker camel transport, where people and camels alike were hanging out the sides. Talk about heads and asses...

Thanks. I really enjoyed this article. I wish I could brag about a long relationship. Alas, marriage and I don't seem to get along...

Maryann Miller said...

Wonderful story, Pat. Like you, I have been looking at some old columns I've written and it is sweet to find a gem like the one you posted.

I didn't marry the sailor who almost stole my heart, but the guy who beat him out has been with me for 44 years and still loves me. That's saying something. :-)