Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Right Partner

My wife, Edna, and I will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary this week. When we said “I do” to each other back in 1979, there were no guarantees our marriage would last. After all, in California, 50% of all marriages end in divorce so we had a 1 in 2 chance that our marriage would fail. But somehow we beat the odds and we are now just one year shy of a pearl anniversary. Through hard work and patience, through compromise and constant communication, we have managed to make our marriage work, so far.

But we can never take it for granted that just because it has worked so far, it will somehow coast along on automatic pilot for the rest of the way and we don't need to work as hard from now on. Wrong. To make a marriage work, you have to nurture it like a garden, providing it with constant attention and tender loving care, always.

At the recent Anchorage conference of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), my wife and I met up with our wedding sponsors, Fred and Dorothy Cordova, FANHS founders, who flew down to San Francisco from Seattle 29 years ago this week to be our ninong and ninang at our wedding. Anyone who knows them can attest to their amazing grace in exhibiting as much love, affection and respect for each other now as they did when they were married more than 53 years ago.

One of the most touching moments of the FANHS conference was the tribute to former Alaska State Rep. Thelma Garcia Bucholdt at the gala night on July 5. There were memoriams, accolades and tributes from the state's governor, speaker of the house and senate president and other notables delivered by friends and colleagues. After Thelma's husband, Jon, was introduced, he strode up to the podium, looked at everyone, nodded his thanks for their expressions of sympathy and then said "50".That’s all he said. "50". But he really didn't need to say anything else as he was conveying to everyone there that he had spent 50 wonderful years - 18,250 days – with his wife and that he was grateful for each second that they had spent together in their life adventure from California to Alaska to Washington DC and back to Alaska. Never was "50" said with such eloquence.

It is truly an amazing achievement to reach that golden anniversary. A couple who reached that milestone early this year is Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. What made their Las Vegas wedding in 1958 stand out was the special marriage vows which they composed themselves. Even after 50 years, it is still a classic:

“Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the Art of Marriage: The little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say 'I love you' at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is finding room for the things of the spirit. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal. It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.”

Paul Newman is 83 and fighting cancer in a New York hospital with Joanne Woodward by his side, in sickness and in health. He is a great actor and an even greater human being as his Newman’s Own Foundation has given over $200 million to thousands of charities since 1982.

Our 29th anniversary wish is for Paul Newman to have a healthy recovery and for all of us to be the right partner.

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