(I am sharing this letter with Irv’s permission)
Happy anniversary! I can’t believe it’s been 51 years since we stood in front of the rabbi at Lou Siegel’s restaurant in Manhattan and exchanged wedding vows with close family as our witnesses.
We’ve been through so much in the last half century – good years, hard years, teary years, years filled with light and laughter.
“It was the best of times and the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote. Yet we stuck together as a team even in the worst of times – nine weeks in the hospital when you lost your leg; when we both lost our jobs and sold grandpa’s silverware to buy groceries; the deaths of family members and dear friends. And we delighted together in the good times with our two children and two grandchildren, and in each other’s company whether kayaking, watching a movie or playing a board game.
“What’s the secret of a long marriage?” people ask. You’ve always said that we each think we are contributing 80 percent rather than 50 percent. I turn to a few Mussar soul traits for answers:
Patience – OK, I admit it’s never been my strongest suit. After you lost your leg, the opportunities to practice increased. Each time I stood behind you, waiting for you to get up the stairs when I had to use the bathroom, became a chance to foster loving kindness as well as patience. I hope I’ve gotten better, some of the time anyway.
Compassion – “My oneness with you means that whatever you are feeling is also stirred within me as my own emotional experience,” Alan Morinis writes. “Your sadness is my sadness….Your joy is my joy.” You have shared in all my joys, my biggest fan when I published a book or got elected to a leadership role, even though it meant fewer home-cooked dinners. And when I didn’t get a promotion or a potential contract, you were the steady presence to comfort me.
Humility – Morinis defines humility as taking up the right amount of space – a critical lesson in a partnership. Last week when we visited friends, I started telling a story, and you jumped in. Seeing the look on my face, you stopped. “Do you want to tell the story?” you asked. “Go on,” I said. We both smiled, and you finished the tale.
Honor – Respecting each other requires acknowledging that we don’t always think or act the same way. I care about my clothes and hair, you don’t. The other day, you pulled out the burgundy Arizona State t-shirt, purchased in 1992. ”It isn’t showing signs of wear,” you said as I looked on with raised eyebrows. I stayed quiet, recognizing that sometimes silence is the best way to show honor.
I know that some days I am successful in demonstrating these soul traits and other days, not so much. Thank you for being patient with me. And here’s hoping we get a few more decades to practice!
I love you,