I have been asked so many times in the two years since I became a widow if I want to marry again. I can’t decide if the question is purely curiosity or if people are asking because they can not face the reality of their spouse dying; perhaps afraid to catch “the death,” which as it turns out is a very real fear. I always answer, hesitantly, that yes, I do want to get married again, after my kids are grown and after I publish this book and after I……. Well that is pretty much it but yes I want to have a spouse again some day. I love marriage but I love the idea of marriage more. The thought that you make a choice to commit to a person until the day you fucking die. I don’t care if you have an open marriage, a closed marriage, a plural marriage (as long as your wives aren’t 14). I love wedded bliss and the unrealistic, idealistic notions that snuggle next to lifelong unity. In reality I never believed that I could stay faithful to one man forever! As I have said I am a card carrying slut, but I did, I stayed faithful and so did he.
Marriage is a commitment that I never really understood fully until the day I was not married anymore. Peter looked at marriage as a bond that could never be broken, no matter the circumstance. I looked at marriage a bit differently, perhaps as a fun day camp or maybe even a sleepover camp. At camp some days are awesome and you get to go canoeing and have only s’mores for dinner; but some days at camp are the worst, like the days when oatmeal is breakfast and lunch and your two o clock snack. But no matter how amusing and entertaining the camp, you always go home. I always felt that my marriage would end in divorce because I never believed I could attain “til death do us part.” Now before you feel sorry for Peter, I was totally upfront and honest with him, telling him that at any minute I could bail on our marriage. He would just listen to my claims and move on to the next topic at hand.
I am sure now my claims of bailing on my marriage were my way of insuring that my feminist values were not compromised because of my entrance into a formal marriage. Peter really didn’t care about my claims of leaving or my assertion that I was indeed a feminist and I could assert my right to leave at any point. He just loved me. Every significant anniversary was accompanied by disbelief that I was still married, not just married, but happier than the last significant anniversary before. I was content being married. I was convinced that I knew what commitment was and I walked around with a chip on my shoulder because I had been married longer and my marriage was probably better than yours. But life is funny because just when you think you have your shit to-ge-ther, things fall apart. There’s a saying that goes “you don’t know what you don’t know until you know”. Now I know. Now I know so many truths about marriage and commitment that I didn’t know I didn’t know.
Making actual life and death decisions about your spouse, watching your spouse die, requires a commitment that doesn’t exist before you have to make those decisions. My belief is you can be married for a hundred years, you could have 2.5 children and vacation in Mexico for every holiday; but until you watch the person that you vowed to spend the rest of your life with take their last breath, you can’t know the true commitment of marriage.
Perhaps I’m angry about not being married anymore or maybe I am just sad. My feelings, like everything else in my life right now, are muddled. I do know that I am not a saint or a martyr but I am proud of myself for staying when I never imagined I could. I did not stay for appearances. I didn’t stay because I had nowhere else to go. I stayed because I was committed to my marriage. I stayed. I stayed when I wanted to run. I stayed when the pain of losing him brought me to my knees. I stayed by his side, holding his hand because I didn’t know what commitment was until I knew. I stayed not only because I loved him deeply but because he deserved a wife who was just as proud to be his wife on the last day as I was on the first.