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#176: On 29 Years of Marriage Measured in Cats and Dogs

On 29 Years of Marriage Measured in Cats and Dogs

It’s possible to measure out a marriage
in pets. Up to year 29, my wife and I have had
two cats and two dogs. Our first pets as newlyweds
were all about the same age, relatively speaking,
so about half way through our history in wedlock
the two cats and the first dog died. We rescued
our next dog not a year later from a relative,
and that dog, the best dog ever, is old now,
and, as they say, on her last legs.
For some odd reason, this year
has been a dog year, a total dog year.
Perhaps, out of guilt for running over the old
dog backing the car out of the driveway,
and despite the fact that she miraculously
survived with nothing but a tire track to show,
we took on the task of rescuing dogs.
We fostered one dog, nearly fell in love
before finding it a home. We adopted another,
only to find out days later he was deathly ill
with some intestinal parasite. We
entertained the crazy notion after that,
perhaps, out of further guilt for giving up
the sick dog, of adopting two dogs at once,
at which we tried, and then failed. Totally overwhelmed
and stressed, we found a home for one and
kept the other, a rot, hound, spaniel mix,
a friendly but rambunctious pup, cute as hell.
I don’t know what it means that we
have had five dogs in our lives in as many
months, what it says about our marriage;
I don’t know why after 28 years only two dogs
and at year 29 four consecutive visits, one permanent.
Are we not busy enough? Do we not have enough
to do? Are we so overflowing with love
that we must find ways of spreading it around?
Would it kill the kid and the old dog to have too much
of a good thing all to themselves?
One of us was less enthusiastic about the dog project,
hesitant, doubtful, trepidatious, finally giving in.
Taking on the care of an animal is a commitment
and requires mountains of negotiation and compromise.
Plainly speaking, it’s hard work.
And at the risk of seeming almost pathologically
unsentimental, writing an anniversary poem
essentially about dogs, let me just say
that marriage or wedlock would perhaps
work more often for people if they would take
it as seriously as they take the care of their beloved animals,
which I believe, despite the various and sometimes momentous
challenges along the way, my lovely wife and I have done for 29 years.

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#49: On the Eve of Our 27th Wedding Anniversary

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On the Eve of Our 27th Wedding Anniversary

Earlier today we looked at each other
and kind of shrugged. What do you want to do?
I don’t know. How about you?
Should we get a sitter and go out or should
we do a special thing as a family?
Let’s do the special thing as a family.
Yeah, that would be better. So, what should we do?

Still partially undecided,
our 27th wedding anniversary plans
will wait until tomorrow to solidify.
She’s putting the boy to bed
and I’m drinking a bourbon in the backyard
thinking about the solidity of a marriage.
Events or circumstances have at times
conspired against it, storms came through.
There were blissful days and torturous ones
and sometimes those days, both blissful and torturous,
turned into months,
once or twice they became years.
Our marriage, tank-like, a fortress,
has withstood it all, and we are practically
the only living couple I know who have lasted as long.
I’m not bragging.  We were and remain lucky and committed.

We live on a property covered with these majestic,
ancient oak trees and when the weather is bad
sometimes large limbs fall into the yard, the driveway,
impale themselves into the soft winter dirt, but
yesterday, one fell, on a perfect summer day,
directly across the drive.  They call them widow-makers,
and for good reason, because if I had been under it,
even if sheltered inside a car, I think I would right now
be a dead husband and my wife would be a widow.
We know we need to talk to a tree person.
What I’m trying to say is this (there’s a metaphor
at work here so bear with me):
It’s us against the oaks.  They’re going to try to outlive us
like they will outlive all the other tenants of this place,
and they might succeed.  They may also try to kill one of us.
But we’re going to talk to a tree person and between now
and the time when we can afford to have the work done
we’ll be on our guard against heavy falling branches.
And despite the fact that neither one of us has huge plans
for the big day tomorrow, we know something good will happen,
as we know there will many more anniversaries,
some with really important even numbers
attached to them, some for which we will throw
huge parties, probably all the way until
the year we die or one of us is killed by a falling limb.

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