In the novel, “The Passing of Tulee Main”, a small snippet of Tulee’s life shows up as Liz prepares to wind up the estate after Tulee’s death. There’s more to the passage, but the part of interest today is:
“A new year, unlike any she had lived for almost fifty years had been starting then. The low-overcast June day of their simple wedding at Pleasant Hill in 1942 was long gone and, now, Walt would have been also.”
The story is briefly covering a moment several years ago, a moment when she was making the adjustments in her life needed to cope with Walt’s death after forty-nine and a half years of marriage.
Forty-nine and a half years.
We read of fifty year anniversaries – even sixty – on occasion but they aren’t the norm anymore. The necessary commitment, loyalty and courage to stay the course when things get a little rocky – or a lot – simply don’t seem to be part of our make-up today. A quick, not too rigorous, look around the web tells me that, on average, a marriage lasts about eight years.
It seems that there’s a lot of splitting up in the early years, a period of calm around nine to twelve years and another spurt in divorces from sixteen years and on for a little while. One source opines that, if you make it to thirty years, you’ll probably last. Doesn’t look like too many get there – else we wouldn’t wind up with that eight year number, would we? (And – it looks like more of the ‘long-termers’ are splitting lately as well.)
There’s another reference to commitment earlier in the tale. It concerns Liz’ own marriage:
“It was something she’d been doing almost since she had married Bart Cleburne at the old family place on that gorgeous Fall day in 1969.”
The story is set in the Spring and early Summer of 2009. That means Bart and Liz Cleburne have been married for nearly forty years. I’ll leave readers to their own conclusions, but it’s abundantly clear to me as I view this couple that they’re as tightly bound, as committed and as in love as at any time in their lives.
This kind of relationship seems to show up in the marriages of both Liz’s sister and daughter as well. In a different form, that same inner compass shows up in Bart’s career choices.
So, what is this, a story about weird people?
I hope not. I desperately hope not. But as I look around at relationships of all kinds today: marriage, parental-child, community, civil, professional – I can’t help but get the feeling that they are more and more being based on:
‘what have you done for me today’,
‘am I really getting the deal I should here’, or
‘I wonder if I really could get away with that’
than they are on any kind of inner moral compass involving a sense of commitment, loyalty or integrity.
It’s not simply in marriage, it’s in all facets of life. I don’t have a remedy, but I think a first step might be to consciously hold up traditional mores as desirable – not as something ‘old fashioned’ or ‘irrelevant’.
It’s my own opinion that this is a story, neither of odd people nor odd behavior, but, rather, one demonstrating how we should interact – in marriage and life in general.
Sorry, but I don’t think we’re doing very well at that.
Comment at will.
(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’ link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)