The hitchhiker’s guide to marriage

When, from time to time, people of my acquaintance ask me how we’ve managed to do it – that is, to stay together for three-and-a-half decades without observable scars, psychic injuries, or durable mental anguish, I invariably answer in one, or both, of two ways:

“A sense of humour helps. . .So does a truly bad memory.”

Today, my wife and I celebrate our 35th anniversary of wedded bliss; twenty years of this span, we’ve spent in Moncton. And, as a recipe for marriage nothing beats the time-tested strategy of bad jokes and selective amnesia.

“Do you remember when we first arrived here?” I asked her just the other day in the midst of a binge-viewing session of the Star Wars franchise. (We had reserved seating for the newest one, you see, so boning up on the mythology was Job # 1).

“I remember that you never could shut up while we were watching our favorite shows,” she barbed.

“Hah! That’s a good one, my dear.”

“Yeah, here’s a better one: Why don’t you shovel the walk like you said you would before it freezes over?”

That’s an even better one, I thought. (As if I would ever perform a household chore before it became utterly intractable.) Of course, that’s one reason why I love her so: She’s a truly funny lady.

I am, on the other hand, a truly forgetful man.

I remember my daughters’ birthdays and, lately, those of my grandkids. But ask me what date my own occurs, and I’m likely to mumble something about November, towards the end of the month. (In fact, I rely on Facebook to tell me these things).

On the other hand, I rarely remember what I ate last night, what show I watched, what book I read, or which newscast threw me into an apoplectic fit of self-righteous indignation.

Did I walk four miles or merely three today? Did I work out on the floor mat for 30 or 45 minutes today? Do my pants make me look fat?

“Yes, actually. . .your pants make you look fat,” my beloved confirms. “But that’s only because you buy them from the little-boy section of Gap.”

Funny stuff. She should go on the road, she’s so fine; get herself a Netflix stand-up gig. I would be her manager, parsing out bottles of water and running interference between her and her legion of fans. I would give up everything to see her tell the big, wide world exactly what’s on her superb, incisive mind.

Of course, these are the moments of which I have perfect recall: The look on her face when she laughed in the summer of 1977, having seen a wild lily in a broken ditch along Hollis Street in Halifax; the way the setting sun steamed the waves at Crystal Crescent Beach on the South Shore of Nova Scotia as she searched in vain for her missing hiking boot in the winter of 1978; the old, grumbling roar of the rollers crashing onto the shore of Chedebucto Bay as we walked silently to the tip of Ragged Head and then back again in the fall of 1984.

How do you stay together for 35 years? It’s a good question. No pat answer serves. A sense of humour is crucial, yes; so is a convenient memory. Most of all, though, the recipe involves a daily dose of imagination, empathy and forgiveness.

And isn’t that that the reason for any of us to get up each morning?

Aren’t we all hitchhikers on the road to love?

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