Zen and the Art of Long Marriages

Last weekend we attended a dinner to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of friends. Two other long-term couples we knew also attended, and there were family and other friends as well. We four couples connected through our wives, all of whom were classmates and friends in nursing school many years ago. Our first toast was to long marriages, especially to that of our hosts. What makes them work, we asked?

A couple of years ago I bought a Casio watch at Walmart with a plastic band that won’t rot from sweat. It tracks phases of the moon, the tides, and offers a host of features like dual time zones, alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer, nightlight, and maybe more. Occasionally I push through the features, pressing buttons here and there, wondering how things work, not thinking about causing a problem.

One night Barbara complained about the watch; it was beeping at midnight for 10 seconds, every five minutes, for several sets. Then it stopped. The watch beeped at other times during the day, but at those times it just beeped for 10 seconds and stopped. The midnight beeping, however, was a problem.

Barbara’s complaints escalated—she hates repetitive noises—so I promised to fix it by Christmas even though that meant finding, reading, and following the instructions.

A recent rainy day seemed perfect for looking up the watch on the Internet, where Casio offered an instructional pdf. It started with phases of the moon and tides, but those parts said nothing about beeps. The sections on the stopwatch and countdown timer similarly offered nothing useful. The alarms had to be the culprits. The instructions said there are five alarms. The first one has a snooze feature during which it beeps for ten seconds every five minutes, and it was set at midnight. Ah-ha. The other four were set at various times, and four of the five were “on.” That occasional fiddling through the features had caused alarm havoc. Got them all turned off and proudly presented the watch to Barbara, my wife of 47 years, with assurances that the beeping was fixed. That night she fell right to sleep, and I lay awake, waiting. Midnight passed in silence. Good.

Here’s wishing you happy holidays, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.