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The next 11 minutes: musings and mutterings on the meaning and mystery of marriage.

I am not so stupid as to make any public comment whatsoever about the character and nature and music of my marriage, which I understand less about by the year anyway, because my marriage, like every marriage that is or was or will be, is different from every other marriage, and my marriage changes shape every 11 minutes or so.

My marriage, like every marriage, is ultimately an utterly ephemeral thing, a shared idea, a mental and emotional construct that both parties believe in to varying degrees at the same time, or else there you are at the bus stop muttering about how you used to be married once upon a time.

And also the person to whom I am married, or to whom I was married 11 minutes ago, is a mysterious changeable country whom I try to simply savor and appreciate rather than attempt to understand or, God help us all, predict in any way, shape, or form whatsoever, such predilection to prediction being the surest road to muttering at the bus stop.

Yet there have been many riveting moments in my marriage, and I recount them here cheerfully so that you can tell me what they mean, for I have no idea. Like when our three children were hauled wet and startled from the salt sea of her womb, and I saw my wife's spleen and thin layer of subcutaneous fat, which I thought was pretty cool but she didn't.

Or the bright morning she told me weeping that she wasn't in love with me like she used to be but loved me deeply, a sentence of incalculable emotional pain and depth.

Or the time we lost a baby in utero.

Or all the times she has fallen asleep on my shoulder watching movies, and the way she wakes with a start and asks anxiously did she drool or snore?

Or the way she becomes so absorbed in the paintings she paints that she loses track of the time and hoots with surprise when she realizes how late it is.

Or the way she reads by the fire wrapped in a caftan.

Or the way she forgets that the milk for her coffee is boiling and yelps with surprise every single morning when it boils over.

Or the way she loves to work in the yard, rain or sleet or shine.

Or the way she loses her temper, sometimes suddenly, and slashes and slices with a stunning tongue.

Or the way she retires upstairs, sometimes in tears, overcome by exhaustion and rude children and an unsubtle husband.

Or the way she laughs from the very fiber of her being, sometimes with a dear friend on the phone.

Many times I have concluded that marriage is nuts, but I find myself delighted by her company, which is endlessly stimulating, sometimes in ways beyond hilarity or sensuality, and sometimes in ways so frustrating and heartrending that I go pray and walk and hum and fold laundry and recall that I am no gleaming glittering prize either. I am just a guy, muddled and humming.

I remember everything; I am memorious, that's my gift and my curse. I remember the way her voice once came shivering out of the dusk, telling me about her dad, whom she loved madly, who had just died. She was his last child, his late-surprise baby daughter.

And I remember the quiver of joy in her high-beam eyes as we danced on our wedding day, swinging each other so fast and wild that if either let go we'd still be orbiting Neptune.

And I remember the million hours she has rocked and consoled and bandaged and fed and cleaned and snarled at and sung for our children and the million hours we have wrestled ideas and locked limbs.

And I know the sound of her sob and the lilt of her laugh, the lurch of her logic and the flare of her fury. Yet after 20 years I know her hardly at all, which is maybe crucial for marriage as a verb, and why I am married, and why the most momentous moments of my marriage seem to me to be incontrovertibly and inarguably the next 11, if they come, which I hope they will, I pray they will, though no one, including most of all me and my wife, know what they will bring, which seems to me the secret of the whole thing somehow.

But what do I know?

By BRIAN DOYLE, editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland and the author of The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart (Paraclete Press, 2005).
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Author:Doyle, Brian
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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