Today my wife celebrates her 26th year of marriage to me, which explains why she's stumbling around the house at 7 a.m. with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand, her left eye twitching uncontrollably, and mumbling: "God grant me the serenity ..."
But as with most things, my mantra is: "She'll get it over it."
Unlike the "silver" anniversary last year, Yahoo (not my wife's name) tells me: The 26th Wedding Anniversary does not have any traditional materials or symbols associated with it. So I didn't have any guidance on what gifts to buy this year. Besides how do you top last year's silver toaster? I'll tell you how, by making one up. Seems I read somewhere that the 26th anniversary is the "soy" anniversary; so a bottle of Kikkoman it is!
And a dozen roses never hurt. If I learned one thing in marriage, it's that flowers cure a lot of ills. I have noticed that the suitors of my daughters seem to have figured that out too, so chivalry is not dead, it's just wilting; mostly because it's awfully tricky to find that sleeping patient in the hospital with a door open so you can quick run in and grab the flowers without them noticing. Takes practice, especially since they've beefed up security so much in the maternity wards. But after 26 years, I got it down.
So when people ask what the secret to a relatively long marriage is, and I think 26 years qualifies, I tell them:
1 - Flowers.
2 - Time away from each other. Hey, I'm not stupid, I know it's possible, though unlikely, that I can get on a person's nerves once in a while. So when she wants a "Girls Weekend Away" with her sisters, I frown and say: "Okay, I suppose." Then when the door closes, I high-five the dog, break out the fireworks and turn on the Cinemax.
As I'm not a particularly social person outside of work, where I have to be social, I'm not big on hanging out with her co-workers and family; not because I don't like them, but because they are people, and sometimes, a lot of times, I just don't want to be around people. So we agreed early on that there would be "got to"s. Those would be gatherings I "got to" go to. Otherwise, I'm invited to come with, but don't "got to." That works out well, because almost all of those "got to"s are ones I would go to anyway: Christmas, birthdays, weddings and a family reunion every five years. It saves on guilt, hurt feelings and pressure.
3 - You have to be a team, and while there's no "I" in team there is a "me." Don't let them tell you otherwise. But as a team, we divide up the duties, she pays the bills (don't even ask me how much we pay for cable or cell phones; heck I don't even know how much I get paid, I haven't seen a paycheck in 10 years, it just goes in the bank, I assume I get paid) and she does the laundry (though I contribute on those occasions when the stinking pile of sweaty running clothes on the floor next to my side of the bed gets too rank for even me to handle) and I do the outside stuff, like mowing and shoveling and gardening and walking the dogs and, umm, other really hard stuff.
But mostly the team part comes in on those rare occasions when it seems like the world around you has lost its mind and you two are the only ones who are sane. There have only been a handful of times when it's come to that, but there's something special about having one other person in the world who gets it. So when the day is crashing in around you, you can hug them with the knowledge that you can pull up roots at any second and go land on a houseboat in Florida or in a remote cabin in Montana and you'd both be perfectly happy.
That's when you know you made the right choice 26 years ago. And I did.
Pass the soy.