“Mom, you do know I married the man, don’t you?” The woman walks past me at a smart pace, talking on her cellphone. A slight breeze sets the rigging of the sailboats clinking as my mind revs into action.
What is mom saying? How often do they have this conversation? How does “the man” feel about it all. What is their story? I suddenly have a million questions, but the moment has passed. It wasn’t my moment to begin with.
“Why are we having this conversation again,” says the highly irritated man in his thirties as he pauses in front of the marina to talk on his phone. He is clearly not in a listening mode. In fact, he sounds like someone who isn’t much into conversational give and take in general. I feel sorry for whoever is on the other end. It might be anyone from his plumber to his significant other. I hope it’s not the latter. It sounds like this would be the time to end things, if it is.
These are only a few of the many passing remarks that catch my attention daily.
“How many times have I told you, Jordan,” says the exasperated mom who dashes past me to stop her son from running out into the street. Dad and Jordan’s older brother move on while mom seeks to quiet Jordan, who clearly prefers darting around haphazardly to walking forward at a normal pace.
I’m reminded of my grandson. He would be happy to join Jordan. Soon we will all be together for Christmas again.
“I love your scarf,” says the bubbly girl behind the dress shop counter to the middle-aged woman browsing through the tops. The girl receives a thankful smile in answer.
My inner cynic rears its nasty head. I used to fall for these nice remarks too until it dawned on me that this is the first thing that any sales-oriented shop teaches its sales persons to do. A happy customer is a buying customer, so flatter away. I wonder if the woman knows this? Does it really matter? It’s nice to receive a compliment now and then.
People talk and I hear them as I walk by. It’s not as if I’m consciously eavesdropping. The passing snippets just take on a life of their own in my head.
My partner in life doesn’t catch a word of what the passers-by are saying. His mind stays on the things that his mind happens to be on. Right now his mind is on choosing today’s vegetables. Mine isn’t.
“I am meeting my lawyer next week. My hearing is two weeks from now,” says a man in his fifties to a younger woman behind me.
My partner in life is left to choose the vegetables on his own as my mind sprints away. What hearing? The man looks like your everyday family man. What did he do? Why is he telling this to this woman in a grocery store? They don’t look related or overly close. This must be a cultural thing. A Finn would rather be caught dead than explaining his legal problems in the vegetable aisle of a grocery store.
Despite all our produce shopping, we decide to eat out the following day.
“We’re doing good,” says the man in his forties to the acquaintance (friend?) who stops by his table. “We’re not there yet, but we’re doing good,” he qualifies as his blonde lunch companion picks at her food and listens. Doing good at what? Where are they not yet? They? As in the two at the table or the company they work for, possibly even own? Again, so many story options
“I don’t know what I’ll do yet. I’ll figure it out,” says the young woman in her early twenties to her avidly listening (best?) friend while sharing a sandwich and a bottle of water. Whatever “it” is, she is clearly confident that she will handle it just fine once she figures out what she wants. Her friend doesn’t seem to question the end result either; she takes a sip of her water and nods as we pass their table.
We choose our own table and start setting up our spicy salmon roll lunch in seamless co-operation. My partner in life divides the salmon roll slices, I set out the cups, the sticks, the soy sauce, the small ginger/wasabi containers and the napkins. He pours the sparkling water, I tune out the world. All is well.
The best presents we can give each other are undivided attention and unconditional love. The latter you have, dearest partner in life. The former you may sometimes have to share with these snippets of life around us. But you are the lead in the story that tops all my other stories; the story of my life.
Today, on December 6th, 2017, it’s time to celebrate two anniversaries: Finland’s 100th year of independence and our 48th wedding anniversary.
I stumble upon Psychology Today on the eve of our anniversary. The headline promises to divulge “The one question that may determine whether your love will last.” It sounds like a million-dollar question.
“Is your partnership primarily based on the usefulness you get out of it, the pleasure you derive from it, or the goodness you see in it,” the article asks. It’s a question that Aristotle posed as he analysed friendships, but the writers of the article have taken the liberty to apply it to romantic relationships as well.
Setting aside my doubts regarding Aristotle as an expert on romantic relationships, I have to agree with the writers’ conclusion. Having a partner in life is both pleasurable and useful, but the primary reason our relationship has lasted over 50 years is the goodness we continue to see in it.
We have been unbelievably lucky to have lived our whole life in an independent Finland in a time of peace and increasing prosperity – and to have done so together, dear partner in life.
Happy Anniversary. May our luck continue.