Marriage is a Wonderful Institution…But Who Wants to Live in an Institution (Groucho Marx)
Marriage is alive and well in the Rapp household. Our middle son, Aryeh, tied the knot a couple of weeks ago and our baby boy, Netanel, is set to walk down the aisle in a few weeks time. I really wish I could take some credit for all these happy unions, alas; my contribution has been minimal at best. Not that I really expected it to be otherwise. My sons are smarter than that. Thirty-five years of marriage under my belt and I have yet to sit down with any of them to conduct one of those conversations. Presumably, my constant reminding them not to ask me for any kind of marital advice may have something to do with their reluctance to approach me on the subject. My take on marriage is that in the best of scenarios it is a work in progress.
When it comes to marital issues, most therapists would probably agree that the two biggies are money and you know what. About the “you know what,“ I should probably be the one asking the questions these days. As far as monetary advice, the less I say the better off for all concerned. Not much of a legacy, so to speak; I am afraid that my boys will have to learn the ropes by themselves – much the way that I had to. My side of the family has a long and respected tradition of judiciously avoiding most discussions of serious substance. I think that I was expected to learn about life through osmosis – that, together with a healthy dose of The Honeymooners reruns.
Fortunately, I did not have to search too far to uncover some inspiring role models. My Bubby and Zaida were married for over 50 years which at the time was considered a big enough deal that the Queen of England’s secretary wrote a personal letter conveying the Royal Family’s greetings. My grandparents were first cousins from the town of Zhytomyr in the Ukraine. I mention that only as a possible explanation for some of my more noticeable eccentricities. Bubby and Zaida kept their teeth in two separate drinking glasses wherever it was most convenient for them. One of my most memorable tasks as a child was to fetch them their false teeth. I believe the two sets were interchangeable. Now that is really true love.
As a refugee from the Second World War, my father was so grateful to be welcomed warmly into my mother’s household. I don’t recall him ever saying a bad word about anybody in the extended family – maybe he should have, but loyalty to kin was not something he took lightly. When my father finally opened his own clothing store he made sure that it was a fair distance from his brother-in-law’s store. From a business perspective it was probably not the best of decisions, but my father knew that it was the right thing to do. I think that some of his business acumen must have rubbed off on me.
When Lori and I were engaged, we were so excited to use our very first engagement gift to purchase three coffee table size art books. The fact that we did not have a table to rest them on was of secondary importance. Lori’s father pointed out in his usual subtle manner that the two of us had a lot to learn about marriage and about our priorities. He was noticeably less enthusiastic about our next major decision as newlyweds. Two summers after we were married, Lori and I embarked on a nine week tour of Europe and Israel. Of course my father-in-law was right. We should have put the money away for a future down payment on a house. What he was incapable of understanding was how memories of a cherished vacation together could prove more valuable to us than four walls.
The brain is usually a pretty reliable organ; only, sometimes it’s not such a bad idea to rely on one’s heart to make a few important decisions. The secret of a happy marriage, according to Henny Youngman, is that it remains a secret.