Today I have been married for twenty-six years. My memories of the event are hazy, soft-focus, not because I have yet become utterly senile and forgetful, but because my eyes teared up during the event and my contact lenses failed the saline assault.
My vision of Hope is all soft-focus as a result like one of those old movies where the lens was smeared with vaseline with the starlet hit the screen. And Hope was the star of the wedding . . . a vision in white . . . and I have nothing else to say about that will not sound like everyone else describing their wedding.
What is not trite in private would surely be trite in public.
And yet my vision that day has proven more useful to me than sharp recollection might. I am glad my wedding could not be filmed in all-revealing HD, because such a prompt would obscure deeper truths that memory brings to light.
The truth was that I did not see Hope well the day I married her. She was more complex, more beautiful, more wonderful . . . and more fallen as we all are fallen . . . than I could imagine. I thought I loved her, but I had only a hazy idea of who the “her” was.
A twenty-two year old who did not know himself at all certainly did not know her.
My internal vision, the eye of the soul was smeared with vaseline, but I did not know it them. I know it now.
I see her better, but not fully. And that is the first lesson of my life with Hope. Because Hope is a person, she is always changing. There are very few areas where I can just take my knowledge of her for granted, certainly not in the area of love. Being a lover is, or should be, always about wondering, not in insecurity, but in marveling over the glory of this other soul.
What else have I learned? Women are not men and Hope is a woman not “women.” Both of these things are so obvious, I am ashamed about how stupid I was about them. Women, I am told by Sacred Scripture and philosophy, have a different voice and my wife has a unique voice in that choir.
I have had to listen without assumptions, either hearing her as a man or based on any generalizations about women. My wife is not human in general or the universal woman but is a particular human being, a particular woman. She is herself.
Loving Hope is, therefore, nothing like loving any other person. I have to learn and go on learning who she is. This is obvious, so obvious even my twenty-two year old self would have gotten it right on a quiz, but I did not live the truth of it.
I kept trying to make Hope fit my needs, my idea of her, my idea of womankind . The truer my general ideas were the more devastating they were when misapplied to a particular person.
I was loving a category, not Hope.
And the bottom line, the hardest thing and most joyful thing, is to learn to love Hope, to meet her needs, to be her husband, to love her. When I say, “I love you.” I always knew the difficulty of finding real love.
Plato taught me how hard it was to know myself, the I in the sentence, but nobody reminded me of hard it was to know “you.” The Other, the beloved, the one is almost impossible to know, but love finds a way.
Or so it seems to me twenty-six years later. Hope is coming into focus.