What would have been my parents’ 78th wedding anniversary came and went one day last week with a big celebration going on in a place somewhere that we can’t see or hear.
I say that only because every time I think of Mom and Dad and their marriage – and of everybody in what is known as “The Greatest Generation” and their marriages – I think of one word: patience.
Things weren’t perfect in any of those marriages. No marriage is ever perfect all the time. To infer anything else would be silly, and disingenuous.
It was true then. It was true 100, 200, 300 and 400 years ago. And it’s still true now.
Marriage is hard. It’s not easy, nor was it ever meant to be. As they say, anything worth its salt is difficult, trying.
But it’s well worth it. A good marriage makes for a good life.
A bad marriage makes for just the opposite.
That also hasn’t changed through history.
What has changed, though, is that patience – or a lack thereof. And therein lies the difference between then and now.
Think about it: Most of those in The Greatest Generation became adults in something else with Great in its name, as in The Great Depression. What ended The Great Depression was the advent of World War II. Please stop me when I’ve come to something that wasn’t then, and wouldn’t be now, miserable, disgusting and horrible.
The only way to get through over a little over a decade and a half – 1929-45 – of nightmarish times was through patience. A worldwide economic collapse and then the world at war are things that were never going to be rectified overnight. It was always going to take a measured, consistent approach to survive. They could never lose heart, or hope. They could never give up or give in. They had to hang in here. There was no other choice.
And, because it worked, they carried that philosophy, especially with their relationships, into their post-war lives.
As such, then, when the boat began rocking, they merely just held on tighter. Though they didn’t know when, exactly, they knew that it was going to eventually quit rocking, so they closed their eyes and dug in their fingers, and their heels.
When the calm waters appeared again and the boat assumed an even keel, they let go and went back to their normal routine, being thst much better for their efforts. Nobody lost their mind, or their significant other.
But not anymore. We are a society today that’s been reared on instant this and instant that, and 30- and 60-minute TV shows in which the answers are delivered to us in neatly-wrapped packages. We don’t have to wait on anything. Patience isn’t a virtue anymore. It isn’t anything, in fact. It’s non-existent.
With that, then, as soon as the boat starts to rock in our relationships, the only things we hold onto are the life-jackets we grab and fit ourselves into as we jump ship, leaving our significant others to fend for themselves. It’s over. We’re swimming to the nearest piece of land and saving ourselves.
Relationships become like so many other things today – disposable. Those aren’t really lives and hearts and souls we’re tossing into the garbage can, but rather just things – inanimate and value-less.
We’ve lost our moral compass, and our way, and we couldn’t care less. It’s every man and woman for themselves.
We simply start over and try again, and, if necessary, again and again and again until we get it right – or what we perceive to be right.
Too many times, though, we never find what we’re looking for. We discover that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, in many cases, there is, to our dismay, no grass at all. We’re confused by that, and we wonder why.
Indeed, if the existence of the free world had been dependent on us and our “sticktoitiveness” 80 years ago, like it was our parents and grandparents, we’d all be speaking Japanese and German right now.
And even wedding anniversaries would many times never make it into double-digits.
We are The Greatest Generation today only in the number of do-overs we attempt.
But succeeding? Ah, that’s another story entirely.