40 years: A hell of a ride, but hey, marriage still works if you just let it


WITH one throw of the dice.

That was how my late father, an accountant who devoted weekends to inventing and fabricating toys for his nine children – and teaching them card games to hone their logic – simply characterized the life-changing decision to get married.

I was the first girl in a brood that included six boys—their number, in fact, was used to justify why he and mom got to NINE—i.e., they kept hoping for a girl.  So, understandably, I was seen as a papa’s girl, not allowed to go around on my own until I reached college, and was expected to properly present every suitor to the parents right from the start.

But when time came for me and my boyfriend of one year to tell Dad we were tying the knot, he was so chill. Maybe he expected it? I don’t know. He just told Butch, “what can I say? You are like a thief stealing my crown jewels. But with a difference—you’re asking for my permission. So I will grant it.”

To me, he had this cryptic advice later, when Butch was out of earshot: “Just remember,” he said, “you just have one throw of the dice. So make sure you get the best number.” He then added, “actually, I’m relieved. Because now, I can rest easy, knowing someone else will have to worry about you 24 hours a day.”

I was happy he didn’t make us go through hoops and quickly gave his blessing, but at the same time, it filled me with such anxiety that I started having on and off fevers the next few weeks. Always, I would ask myself, “what if I made a mistake? What would Daddy say?”  On hindsight, I realized through the years I so adored my father that my anxiety sprang in equal parts from two things: first, will I be happy for the rest of my life? And second, if I’m not, what would my father think?

By the grace of God, and I guess from the sheer prayer power of both our parents, the dice gave me a good number. The one throw was flawless, I can see clearly now, because if it had not been so, this marriage wouldn’t have lasted this long. Neverending challenges. All sorts of crises, happening one after the other. Through all the ups and downs of career and personal lives, we rode our tiny kayak like adventurers navigating the rapids.  On hindsight, two important things that bound us – along with the hard part that we always shared, to split the burden, I guess – were music and laughter. I cannot ever imagine what 40 years would be without all the sounds we shared and all the wit and jokes that soothed our pain and wiped away the bad moods.

How do you keep the music playing? The song asks. Just keep playing it. Every day. The song asks, “how do you lose yourself to someone, yet never lose your way?” I guess: find someone who will not possess you when you lose yourself to him.

Is there any other takeaway from 40 years? I’d say, it’s this, the one thing I impart to couples who ask me to be godmother at their wedding: When you wake up each morning, always remember that moment you first realized you’re in love. 

Why did I change my Facebook cover photo to add two masks? Not because of the pandemic. It’s their colors: Lime and Lilac best reflect the double-sided nature of marriage. Joy and sorrow. Ups and downs. Sickness and health. Richer or poorer. You get the drift? Vows. That’s why we make them. And why we make them not just to each other, but with the Witness who will always help us make it work.

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