Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Box

In the corner of our living room is a lovely bookcase that my daughter Laura gave me a few years ago. She had one at her house and I admired it...so...the next thing I knew she had one for me.

A couple of the shelves hold some of my old, favorite books...including 10 original Nancy Drew mysteries.


It ia very special to me because it is where I keep 40 or so letters that Bob wrote me when he was in Germany in 1951-52.

Also inside the box is a newspaper clipping from years ago...an article written by Bob Greene, a nationally syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune and best-selling author. It has been said that he wrote for people hungry for moral clarity, for nostalgia, for a softer world.

It's a long article but well worth the read:

"Scenes from a (LOST OR LOVING) marriage:
There may be many scenarios that typify the lives of men and women who have been married for a long time, but I saw what I think was the classic case the other afternoon.
This was at O'Hare Airport, in the Delta Airlines terminal. A bunch of us were sitting waiting to board our flights, when all of a sudden a man in his 50's walked up to a ladies' restroom.
The man opened the door of the ladies' room. Then he shouted inside:
"Lenore? Are you in there?"
There was no reply from inside the restroom. Those of us in the gate area were by now staring at the man.
"Lenore!" he yelled into the ladies' room. "Are you in there?"
An embarrassed cry came out of the ladies' room: "Yes, I am."
Well, what are you doing?" the man yelled. "They're boarding our flight!"
"I'll be right out," the woman called.
People in the gate area were laughing out loud by this point. The man walked back to whatever boarding area he had come from. And a minute or so later, an embarrassed-looking woman, also in her 50's emerged from the ladies' room. Presumable she was Lenore.

All the people who saw it told the story that night whereever they were having dinner. I know I did. I have seen a lot of things in my life, but I had never seen a man shouting into a ladies' restroom.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was just the ultimate example of how people who have been married forever sometimes treat each other. There is probably no other woman in the world whom that man would dare to interrupt while she was in the ladies' room: with Lenore, it was clearly second nature.
You see less dramatic examples of this all the time:

The man and woman who, eating dinner in a restaurant, go for 60 full minutes without exchanging three sentences.

The woman in the restaurant who, when the waiter asks what she would like to eat, orders meals for both herself and her husband.

The man and woman sitting in a public place who wordlessly exchange different sections of the newspaper when they are finished reading.

The woman who automatically reaches up to adjust the back of her husband's suit collar when it isn't even sticking up.

The man who climbs into the passenger seat of the car when his wife picks him up, and adjusts the radio before kissing her hello.

The woman who says"Well, it's getting late for us" the moment she decides she would like to leave a party.

The man who says "No" when the hostess at a party asks his wife if she would like a refill of her drink.

The woman who raises her eyebrows in silent apology to the room when her husband tells a stupid off-color joke.

The man who hits the channel-changer button on his television set's remote-control unit while his wife is still watching a program.

Some of these things might seem like pure thoughtlessness, and others may seem like dreary habit, but they're something more than that;
they're the way that married people too often routinely begin to treat each other after years and years of living together. To an outside observer each instance might seem to be an example of love gone wrong, or blood run chilly, but I don't think that's always true; alas, romance may die while love remains, and just because couples don't behave like teenagers on their first date doesn't mean that their marriages are in trouble.
The man who doesn't say a word to his wife at dinner might know very well that he would fall apart totally if he were to lose her.
The woman who announces that she and her husband are leaving the party without consulting her husband might say silent prayers each night, thanking heaven that the two of them are still together.
What seems like lack of consideration may be merely comfortable to the husband and wife involved;
what seems tiresome beyond belief to younger lovers in the throes of new passion may be an island of peace to the husband and wife who have known each other's every thought for decades.

Not to be too mellow; a lot of long-term marriages are rotten, and some of the signs of bad marriage can be the very things that also symbolize two people who are completely at ease with each other. You can never guess how someone else's marriage is faring, no matter how well you think you know the two people.

But after we were all finished lauging at the man who yelled into the ladies' restroom, and after I had told the story at dinner that night, something occured to me:
Very few people make it through enough years with a man or a woman that they could dare do something like that and know instinctively that they would be able to get away with it. The man might have been shouting "Lenore!! Are you in there?
But, who knows? Translated, that might come out as "Lenore! I love you!"


  1. Oh my heavens. You are such a wonderful writer. This post and countless, literally countless others, would be wonderful reading for a newspaper column or a special little gift book. You - just - have - this - way (about you.) You are amazing.

  2. I never knew that newspaper article was in there. What is the date on the paper?
    We used to love to sneak and read those letters, but I guess you probably already knew that huh? Blessings

  3. Barbara...NO...I DID NOT KNOW THAT!!!!

  4. This fits our marriage perfectly. Been married 35 years and we often finish each others sentences, yet I know we just couldn't live without one another. The more devoted we become to one another the more we feel free to be ourselves.. I think it's great

  5. Thanks for directing me to your post here. Yep, I would say "The Box" is definitely the keeper of a number of love letters. Great that you still have them after all these years. :)


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