A friend asked me today to blog about marriage.
And I’d really, really like to.
Three weeks ago, my life changed forever. Maybe there is something important to say about it. Following a time-warp dreamworld of honeymooning in Northern California, my husband and I came home to a week of work, followed by a week of grief.
As much as I want to delve into the complexities and lessons of this baby marriage, it is hard to think past the loss of my Aunt Maurine. My heart is heavy, my body is tired, and mind can hardly catch up.
I haven’t yet experienced enough of marriage to have any complete thoughts about it, but I have thoughts as far back as I can remember about Maurine Rukes.
During her visitation and the days following, I talked with my Uncle Myron (her husband). He answered each of my questions with his usual quiet smile.
Myron & Maurine met on a bike ride in 1943 in Rosedale, IN. With his twin Marion, he rode past a friend’s house, where the brothers noticed two pretty girls who were visiting from a nearby town. They stopped to talk; Marion got a date with Sissy. Myron didn’t get a date with Maurine until after he got a car.
The two couples have been together ever since.
Myron and Marion joined the Navy together the next year, and toured the Pacific. When the twins were assigned to separate ships, their mother wrote a letter to President Roosevelt: “You keep my boys together.” And he complied. Myron wrote Maurine dozens of letters during his 3 years of service. He returned to Indiana in 1947; he and Maurine were married that June.
Two weeks ago, Myron hobbled to the kitchen, found a steak knife, and took it outside. His daughters and son watched, puzzled. “He has lost his mind.” “He’s going to fall on that knife.” They watched as he searched around the backyard, knife in hand, until he found a handful of flowers and sliced them off at the stem.
He took them to Maurine’s bedside, where she was just awake.
“Hi Sweetie Pie. We met 70 years ago this month, did you think I’d ever forget?”
Sitting at the Mattox-Wood funeral home last Thursday, he said to me, “She was feisty. I got 70 years out of her. I picked a good one, didn’t I?”
In those 70 years, they had three children who grew up with my mom. They moved only once, welcomed grandchildren, went camping all over the country, and watched the world change. Maurine painted, wrote, created, gardened, and generally beautified the world around her. She forgave enormously, befriended anyone, photographed everything, gave everything she could, and spoke her mind with confidence.
I have circled the world, desperate to make a good story of my life. She did so from one brick house in one little city. She astounds me. She read my words, and insisted that I write a book.
As I write about Aunt Maurine now, I have dug into historical records & Wikipedia articles, fact-checking my emotion-fogged memories of the stories I heard last week. Traces of her life and her beloved family are everywhere.
The same sort of traces of her are in my life: a painting here, a letter there, that picture from last Christmas on my desktop. She seasons my thoughts and my creativity like a well-measured spice. I find her in my cousin’s laugh, mom’s cheeks, dad’s words, my sister’s love of photography and history, and my brother’s ever-deepening faith. She left her mark on this world, and it is as simple and true as her poetry.
When I hugged Uncle Myron goodbye on Saturday, he asked about Kyle. He wanted to be sure we were doing well. And he gave me advice, in such a casual tone as if he were reminding me to use my turn signals while driving:
“You enjoy each other, now. You only get so much time. Have a good life together. I know you will.”
I heard everything he meant in that: after seven decades with Maurine, he would have happily spent seven more. He knows how completely rare such a thing is, but he has confidence that Kyle and I can live it out, too.
I replied with the only thing that seemed to fit:
“We will, Uncle Myron. We learned from the best.”