We’re on a flight. Usually, it’s a business trip. There’s an itinerary. Where to be, and when. Lots of Hank checking his watch, hating to be late. “What’s your timing, Heath.”
This time, though, it’s to our get away in Park City, Utah.
I look out the window. A ridge of mountains in the distance is peeking out from a layer of haze. Instead of my usual coffee, I’ve ordered a glass of wine. I want to relax. Be quiet, and reflect.
You see, in a few days Hank and I will celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary.
And, we’re not on a business trip. I sip the white wine. It’s not good. Not even the kind I like, but who cares. It’s airplane wine, and it’s doing the job. Mellowing the hyper me.
I look at Hank beside me, working on what looks like some sort of graph on his computer. It’s work. I press my hand on his arm, feel the soft cotton of his shirt. He gives me a smile, presses my hand, and returns to his graph. I rest my head on my seatback and go back forty years.
“I now pronounce you man and wife,” the Right Reverend Ollie Garver said, smiling. “You may now kiss the bride.”
Hank, lifts my veil and I take his wire-rimmed glasses off. We kiss for the first time as a married couple.
We walk back down the aisle, full of glee and innocence, smiling wide. Clueless.
Because, for me, my life did begin when I married Hank.
“Whom can you trust?” my mother’s therapist had asked her years ago when she’d been debating between two men after my father had left.
“Then, you have your answer, Marilyn.”
And, I’d had mine. I married a man whom I could trust.
“He’s sane,” Mom had said after Hank proposed to me. “You’ll have a beautiful life with this one. He won’t cheat.”
At twenty-two what did I know? I knew I loved him, but I was twenty-two! Still finishing college when we married. Hank, just a few years older than me, was working but he wasn’t totally convinced that the music business was the path for him.
“It’s a crapshoot,” Mom had said, “But I think you’ll be cool with this one.”
My mother had lived a life by then. She could call it like nobody else.
Upon our engagement, Hank’s grandmother, MG, wrote a letter from her beach house, its address printed atop the page. “I’m thrilled that St. James is the church you have chosen, as our wedding took place there over fifty years ago – maybe that’s a sign!!”
Hank’s grandparents. Affectionately named MG and PG. The lunches she’d prepare for PG at the beach. Little bits of healthy things on a china plate. Just like their marriage.
Hank’s grandmother, Nonnie. The warmest, most generous woman. Her blue eyes twinkled when she spoke of her beloved deceased husband. She loved to gesture with her hands, the crowded charms commemorating all that had been right in her life, dangling off her linked bracelet like badges of honor.
Hank’s parents. Watergate. Challenged beyond what most married couples would ever have to endure. Yet, there they were. They’d weathered the storm. Solid and together.
I saw this at twenty-two. Marriages that worked. Something I’d never seen before, growing up in a chaotic home with only my mother to ground me until my stepfather came along.
In her wild scrawl, my mother had written to me the night before my wedding on a torn piece of notebook paper. “I stayed in bed with you six months while I was pregnant. So that I’d have you my whole life. I tried,” she wrote, “to do my best but it wasn’t that good. But I tried. Better than my mother – hopefully, you’ll do better for your daughter.”
“Remember, Heather, hope springs eternal – fear buries faith - boldness has virtue in it.”
I’m jostled to the present as we hit rough air and the seatbelt sign illuminates. I hold onto my glass, not wanting the contents to spill all over my jeans.
Flying is kind of like marriage, I think. Turbulence, then holding on, waiting for it to pass to move to smoother air and never really knowing what the rest of the flight will be like.
I look back out at the horizon as we pass over a patchwork of the Great Salt Lake. The pilot banks a turn. The horizon disappears and now it’s just the colors of the minerals in the lake out my window like a painting at the MOMA.
As the pilot announces our initial decent, I glance over at Hank.
This guy next to me. The crapshoot that I chose to wager with all those forty-years ago. The guy my mother told me to trust, who would be cool. The guy who would never cheat.
I’d rolled the dice.
And came out a winner.