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More appreciative of the goodness we have around us

Full Sped to Port!

Posted: May 14, 2008 3:33 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
Last Friday was a rough one. I'm in the landscape business - married to the housing industry - and as most know, housing isn't the cheeriest spot in the economy right now. It's akin to tap dancing atop a minefield. There's stress, and then more stress - like a "super-unglue" against healthy living.

So, limping home from work, I looked forward to soul-replenishing relaxation with Carrie. We'd light up the fireplace. Pop open the Sauvignon Blanc. And turn on reruns of the BBC series "As Time Goes By."

I suspect most Santa Claritans haven't had the pleasure of enjoying "As Time Goes By." It's a great little TV series, starring Dame Judie Dench and Geoffrey Palmer as romantic seniors who in their youth had been in love but were abruptly separated by the Korean War.

Much later in life they again find each other, and the fun starts as they reignite their romance - this time as pithy seniors, full of foibles, and all too self-aware of their advancing years. It's a truly thoughtful show - all acting and plot like British plays, with none of the violence or sensationalism so common to most TV.

In a certain episode, "Jane" and "Lionel" are preparing for bed when disagreement breaks out over an event of the day. Jane is offended by her daughter's reluctance to allow her to help at her work, and Lionel reminds her that the daughter is simply defending her hard-earned independence from her mother's intrusion.

In real life, marital disagreements like this often escalate, but these two have been around the block and have painfully lost each other once before. Profoundly valuing one another, they talk it through, finding resolution. Love and peace hold firm despite sensitive feelings being pricked.

When I saw this particular scene I recalled with chagrin those nights across my three-decade marriage to Carrie when at day's end we would argue over this thing or that. Looking back, those tiffs and arguments seem so trivial now - particularly relative to the big picture of our lives together.

I'm shamed to think I couldn't find more productive problem resolution with my loving Carrie other than silly arguing - or our ever-favorite "silent treatment." We were immature at 19 and 23, respectively.

And I could be shortsighted, unthoughtful, and even unsupportive. While my nearly perfect Carrie had her occasional lapses, most of the fault behind our tiffs lies with me and with my failure to be mindful of others.

Fortunately, I was taught early and hard that marriage is for keeps. Carrie, too, and the proof is in the pudding as her parents are just days from their 50th wedding anniversary. So, while Carrie and I had our ups and downs, the iron-clad contract of our marriage kept us glued together while we worked through youthful dumbness.

I'll count at least one blessing of getting older: In maturity, I'm more attuned to appreciate the goodness present in my marriage, life, home and personal associations. Had I learned this lesson earlier, handfuls of angry nights staring at the ceiling would have been averted. But live and learn - and we're mellowing with age.

A few days ago we sadly heard from our son Jonathan that his "study abroad" parents were getting divorced. Back in high school, Jon did a half-year in Denmark, where he became close as clan to father Mogens and mother Anetta.

Mogens is a doctor and Anetta a nurse, and together they live, or had lived, a robust, fanciful, love-filled life, full of friends and laughter - all in their beautiful home on the water in northern Denmark.

Our families became close, and three times we spent New Year's Eve at their home - experiencing Danish New Year's parties with fireworks and fires on the beach, dancing in the great room and food and fun all night long.

But tragedy had once ravaged this wonderful couple, and wickedly, returned a second time. Their oldest son had been killed in a motorcycle accident at age 19. He could have been rescued, but their small town didn't have sufficient emergency response.

Motivated to protect others from such fate, Mogens founded a special doctors' emergency response system and for years selflessly served the town with other like-minded physicians, providing mobile 24-hour rescue service.

But short years later, on the day before Mother's Day, their second son, also 19, died from accidental electrocution. Had the responding police called emergency medical response, this son also might have been saved. But the call wasn't made, and the loss was profoundly disturbing and tragic.

Years passed and we thought Mogens and Anetta had weathered the storm together. But stress changes people and Mogens opted to end the marriage. Gone forever will be the lighthearted times with so many mutual friends.

Gone will be the lyrical parties. Gone are decades of life and history together. And for my son Jonathan, gone are the hopes of sharing wonderful moments with this lovely couple, together as a family.

With such deep loss, change was inevitable. But perhaps it could have gone the other way, with their marriage strengthening in adversity. All we really understand is tremendous loss at their dissolution. They were family to us, and while we'll always love them individually, things won't be the same. There is simply less in the loss.

If you haven't seen "As Time Goes By," go rent it. It's sound mentoring for interpersonal relations. All of us will face challenges in marriage. Most of them silly foibles, but eventually some deeply profound, as hardships arise and as loved ones die.

Learning to be "as one" through these stresses requires sustained, thoughtful recognition of what goodness we have around us. With the loss of our dear Danish friends' marriage, and a gentle lesson from the BBC, I'm reminded of all the good Carrie and I share, more than ever before.

And recollections of the good are never a bad thing to keep in the forefront of our minds.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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