Of Rainbows and Watermarks

Facebook is a difficult place to be these days. Especially for someone like me. Married to a retired cop, Catholic – of the Roman persuasion, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, conservative. Not an especially welcoming place. Here is today’s contribution to a less than civil discussion.

I support traditional marriage. I am the product of one. But traditional marriage has been suffering for a long time. Last Friday is just a marker along the path to total destruction that started decades and decades ago.

A traditional marriage

429082_3265997461292_1238271452_nMy parents were married for nearly 63 years when my mother left my father. It was an abrupt decision. One that they only considered for five months. The seven of us children were devastated, as was my dad. But as the old saying goes, “until death do us part” and it was death that parted them. My dad is incomplete now. Very important parts of his self are gone because the two of them were one. Few my age, and even fewer my children’s age have ever witnessed a traditional marriage so it is no wonder that marriage defined by #lovewins drowns out every other sentiment. On the ides of March in 1947, my parents, man and woman, entered a traditional marriage. And that is what I support. That is what I aspire to in my own marriage. That is what we fall terribly short of each and every day, but still we try. I am hard-pressed to think of one single friend, younger than 80 that provides an example of a traditional marriage. It’s just too hard and too-other centered as the “Me Generation” begins its fourth decade.

#Hashtag free marriage

Marriage isn’t about love, it’s about sacrifice. Love – that all-consuming physical and mental obsession with another person – is the lure that traps you into marriage. As the years go by, that first rush of love dissipates to be replaced by love – that comrades in arms type of emotion – that runs deeper, much deeper. But that second love is only forged through fire. The difficult times come. The love required at this point in a marriage is not rainbow and lollipop love. It’s self-sacrifice and a focus on the other, first your spouse, second your children. This is the basic building block of society, where a child learns all the important lessons of life – civic duty, sharing, why bullying is wrong, how to deal with a bully, to love one another, integrity, honesty – all the basic building blocks of a healthy society. A mother and a father – meant in the very gender specific, terribly un-PC manner implied – are a critical component to this structure. Children learn very specific separate things from each gender parent that can only be inadequately mimicked or vaguely recreated in a different structure. And this is what we should encourage.

But back to my parents and the example they provide. My dad is a mining engineer. He went – and we went – where the ore and the economy called. There was never a thought as to whether it was best to stay in one place for the sake of us kids. It was a decision made between my mother and father based on what was best for his career and our family.  I don’t say that with an accusatory, pity me tone, that was just the way it was. Often the job entailed my dad living on site 5 days out of the week and coming home on the weekend. Sometimes he would camp to avoid the extra cost of a motel room. He sacrificed. And with seven children at home, my mother did as well.

That’s right, seven children. The funny thing is, growing up, our family was considered medium sized. We used to feel sorry for those really small families who only had four children. How boring. That is the first difference. Their marriage was open. Not in a swinger kind of way, open to children. So at the age of 41, right after taking up golf because her youngest children were in second grade, my mother was faced with an the announcement of unintended, unplanned pregnancy – a child with high possibility of Down’s Syndrome. My impending arrival was met with the exact same response as the other six. And as that “accident” I never felt like I was anything other than a “pleasant surprise.”

But imagine, your oldest son headed to college, the last of the children finally in grade school, that chance to finally begin “your life” put off for another 8 years. But there was no other choice. THANK GOD.

My mom always had a difficult time finding a dentist. I remember several times going to a new dentist and my mother asking if he would work on her teeth WITHOUT novocaine, laughing gas or any other anesthesia or pain mitigation. It was a quick way to weed out possible dentists because few would do it. It was not until I was in my forties that I found out why. It wasn’t masochism. Raising seven children required lots of pairs of shoes, lots of coats, lots of food. My mom had to figure out the ways to cut corners on her own needs to provide for ours. And by her sixties, it was a well-established habit.

We had vacations every year. Never to Mexico, or Europe, or Hawaii. It was to visit my grandparents. We would pile into a station wagon and drive, without air conditioning, to their home where we would sleep on the floor. Summer days filled with trips to the candy store with my Grandad, a trip to the amusement park, exploring the state capitol, eating dinners whose recipes were perfected in the Boarding House my Nana ran in the 30s and 40s. I wouldn’t trade those memories for any cruise or all-expense paid resort vacation. This was my normal, straight out of a 50s television show. I grew up thinking that the nuclear family was very uncommon. Not everybody had a father who mined uranium and worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. But I did. I never needed a school counselor to teach bullying. I had six older brothers and sisters at home for that reason. They taught me the fine art of bullying and that the only way to stop it was to stand up to it. I learned that sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. Literally.

On a daily basis. I learned that debate, discourse and conversation were necessary and important parts of the evening meal and life. We argued and learned the day’s news there. The Vietnam War, Watergate, the Energy Crisis, the Evil Empire – all of these were discussed on a daily basis. The Today Show over breakfast, the evening news before dinner, the daily newspaper in the morning, Time Magazine in the nooks and crannies throughout the week. Growing up, I hated all of it. I hated news and politics. Until I didn’t.

We were never allowed to call each other stupid or to say shut up, even if we said something stupid and we should have shut up. And this is why Facebook makes me cringe. Good people can have honest differences of opinion. If you don’t like it, move on. Don’t respond. If you want to change someone’s opinion, respect them first. Ask them to meet for coffee, where face to face, you can DISCUSS an issue and learn from them while they learn from you. Slapping a watermark over your picture, calling them a bigot – or any other intolerant name – doesn’t change anyone’s mind and merely draws a line in the sand.

#Hashtag Marriage

Marriage has been re-worked into a Love American-Style version that has very little to do with Traditional Marriage. It is defined by love – whatever makes you happy. Until it doesn’t. And then it is time to move to the next heady rush of love. Absent in all of this love? Children. Children are now a commodity to be planned, pruned and perfected. Our little hothouse flowers demand a lot. We can only have one or maybe two because how could we possibly afford more. There isn’t enough love to go around. And so we shower these little extensions of our egos with vacations to Costa Rica, ballet lessons, traveling sports teams. We plan their futures from birth. We worry over the best preschool. We pick their friends and smother them with protective bubble wrap. In this type of marriage, mother and father are not nearly as necessary as a really good batting coach. Schools, teachers and counselors provide the basic building blocks of a healthy society, right? Yet, those important lessons are learned long before those kids get to school in Kindergarten, therefore we must work to establish mandatory all-day kindergarten for the necessary remediation. Preschools must be mandatory to read by three.

And here’s what bugs me…

The traditional marriage I mourn died a long time ago. It was one man, one woman through sickness and in health, until death do us part, open to every child as a blessing, where divorce was such an anomaly it caused folks to gasp and think,” those poor kids”

What I also mourn is the loss of civility that allowed us, as a society, to discuss important topics. We quit talking about marriage a long time ago. First, we defined divorce as good for the kids – happy parents mean happy kids, right? Then we made children commodities to be bought and sold. Then we devalued fathers. Then we devalued mothers. Then we demand the government to replace both. Then we allow marriage to mean whatever, whenever. Now we will go after anyone who dissents. We will ruin their businesses, force them out, protest in front of their homes. Next, the churches. How dare a church teach the sanctity of life or marriage. That’s hate. Let’s shut them down. Does anyone else see the complete dismantling of the first amendment?

You may not like what I say, but don’t I have the right to say it? Watch carefully what happens to my rights, because once mine are not protected, yours won’t be either.