Saturday, June 29, 2013
The Other End of Love
“…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.” – Marriage vow from the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, page 427 Phil, one of my husband’s best friends from high school, recently remarried, to a lovely woman named Barbara. They have bought a house and combined their households, and are starting married life in their mid-60s with all the hope and enthusiasm of any newlyweds. We have wished them all the best and are happy for them. You have to tip your hat to people who marry at this time of life. The cynical side of me says it’s the triumph of hope over experience. Marriage, after all, is what a lot of us want, but it ain’t easy, even in the best of circumstances and all the love and good will in the world, because life happens. A lot of fuss is made about new love and beginnings – how many love songs are there? Who does not know that feeling of joy when the heart is fairly bursting with feelings of love? How many of us have been dizzy with the knowledge of love returned? There are probably even more songs about love gone wrong. There is not much deeper disappointment than when you’ve made yourself completely vulnerable and been betrayed, and who among us has not been there, and sung those songs? It is part of life to love and not be loved back. It sucks eggs, but we all have to live through the discovery that we are not everyone’s cup of tea. There, two metaphors in one sentence. Think I’ll make some tea and boil an egg. But I digress. Then there is what I am starting to call the other end of love, when you have lived together for longer than you lived apart, raised your family, done your jobs, been through the years and blows, and are looking at your life’s end game. Not so many songs about that. Jacques Brel wrote “La Chanson des vieux amants” (“The Song of Old Lovers”) and it’s a good song, but it’s not the song I’m talking about. Brel speaks of stormy times, of leaving each other, of taking other lovers, but always coming back to each other. One line says, “…we had to have a good deal of talent to be this old without being grown-ups.” (©Jacques Brel, but I don’t know what year) This is not the end of life – this is middle age celebrating youthful behavior that persists. That’s all very Gallic (or Belgian) of Brel, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those of us who did not have the talent to keep ourselves from growing up, those of us who showed up for life every day and hung on, those of us who understand that, “…until we are parted by death” is about as solemn a solemn vow as you can make in this life. Where are our love songs? I’ve been thinking lately that I should write such a love song. I haven’t written a song for years, but this idea is turning slowly ‘round in my brain, and I’m thinking it would be good to have such a song to sing now, a song about a lifetime of fidelity and friendship, of laughter and music, of shared hard times and joyful times, of the sadness of knowing that life does end, and you never know when or how or to whom the ending will come first. That’s the trouble with loving someone forever – for human beings, forever has an expiration date. Then I shake myself and say to hell with all this morbidity. As long as we’re alive, we’re alive, and we shall live life to the fullest, fight the good fight, and continue to laugh and cry and eat chocolate and feed the birds, and perhaps sing one of those old love songs, maybe this one, © 1962 Bob Dylan: “If today was not a crooked highway; if tonight was not a crooked trail; if tomorrow wasn’t such a long time; then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all.” Yep. Tomorrow is a long time. That’s why it’s amazing that tomorrow arrives so fast. Congratulations and best wishes to Barbara & Phil. I’ll only add that Bob Dylan said early in his career that every song he wrote was a love song. If you’re a songwriter you understand that. But that’s another essay.