As of today, Dianne and I have been married for 25 years. She tells me that these have been the four best years of her life.
When most people think about marriage, they think about the big stuff. Buy a house or rent? What neighborhood to live in? Have kids or not? How many? Where to send them to school? (See the neighborhood question.) Who will be the main breadwinner? For whose career will we move?
But there's a point at which all those issues have been long settled. And the remaining issues are the ones of day-to-day life. Heat up a frozen pizza for dinner or make pork chops? Do we have apple sauce for the pork chops? Should we keep the 1997 Honda or trade it in? You want to watch the Brewers or an episode of Mad Men? Did you feed the dog or do you want me to do it? The vet bill was how much?
In the end, it seems to me that that's the reason to be married. You have somebody to share the common moments of your life. For us, at least, a good marriage is not about a lot of drama and big decisions about our future. It's about picking a color for the bathroom.
One of the happiest moments of my life was the day about 10 years ago when we walked over to Forest Hill Cemetery and picked out our burial plots. (Really -- stay with me on this one.) The friendly city employee at the cemetery drove us around in a van and showed us maybe four or five sites. We chose a very nice, leafy spot in Section 5 in the older part of the cemetery. It's shaded by a big oak tree.
It occurred to me that you make this choice not so much for yourself, as you won't really experience the setting once you take up residence there. But you do imagine your spouse coming there to visit. You want a pleasant location so that maybe she'll visit more often.
It was a crisp October morning and we were practically giggling as we kicked our way through the leaves back home. You wouldn't think choosing a burial plot would be that much fun. But it was a good deal -- it's some of the least expensive real estate on the west side. And there was the feeling that something had been settled, that the person walking next to you would make those final routine decisions about caskets and flowers and whether to have beans or coleslaw at the funeral lunch. You trust her to choose the coleslaw just as you know she'd pick the right color for the bathroom.
There is comfort in a certain amount of certainty in a world that seems more in flux than ever, to have a partner you love and can trust in the million tiny decisions which, in the end and in the very end, make up a life together. Tonight I know we'll have lamb chops.