My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. There are so many things I could say about what has held us together, sustained us, kept us still interested in being married to each other, but I’m reminded of an incident that happened early in our marriage that was probably telling for how the next 25 years were going to unfold.
I was driving to work one morning in one of those unexpectedly heavy Houston thunderstorms. The rain was coming down so hard and so fast it didn’t have time to drain off.
A trip that normally should have taken 45 minutes had already taken 3 hours and I was only halfway to work.
I looked for somewhere I might stop, make some phone calls (this was before everyone had a cell phone - hard to imagine!) and maybe have some coffee and some lunch.
I finally inched forward to stop at a diner, and sat in my car a while, waiting for a little break in the rain so I could run in. From where I was sitting, I could see the never-ending line of bumper-to-bumper traffic up and down the street.
As I was watching the traffic not move along, I noticed what seemed to be my new in-laws’ light blue truck stuck along with everyone else.
My new father-in-law kept the ancient truck as an extra vehicle to haul things and get through high-water situations just like this one. I couldn’t see too well through the rain, but I saw my father-in-law driving, and a shadowy figure moving around next to him in the cab of the truck.
I knew my new father-in-law to be a rather cautious, prudent fellow, so I remember thinking to myself, “what in the world is he doing out here in this storm with Mookie?” Mookie was his dog and loyal companion and my retired father-in-law often took Mookie along on errands and extra walks during the day.
I finally got into the diner. I waited my turn for the phone, called into work (no one answered), and then called my new husband, who had miraculously made it into his office with only a slight delay. I told him I’d seen his dad out in the truck with Mookie.
Later we both made it home, safe and dry. My husband said he’d had a chance to speak with his dad about my sighting of him earlier that day.
When questioned about being out in the morning rain with Mookie, his father had answered, slowly: “Son, that wasn’t Mookie – that was your mother.”
Apparently, in the terrible weather conditions, I had mistaken the “shadowy” figure moving around in the cab of the truck for Mookie when in reality it was my new mother-in-law on her way to a doctor’s appointment (!!!).
I was so mortified I almost couldn’t speak (highly unusual for me).
And then both of us burst out laughing.
We laughed so hard we couldn’t stop and when we finally did, and I found out there was no harm done with my new in-laws, I knew I had married the right man and into the right family.
My new mother-in-law had a good sense of humor and laughed easily. She started with a broad smile, which turned into a giggle and then the giggle took over and turned into a full body laugh. If you happened to be around her when this happened, you couldn’t help but laugh, too. While she has regrettably passed on in the last few years, I am grateful to see that my husband and children inherited this tendency to find the humor in a situation and have a good laugh.
Something ridiculous happens, we all pause for a moment at the realization, and then the giggles start.
For the most part, for the last 25 years, we have chosen to laugh instead of finding fault with each other and that makes our marriage a really happy place to be for both of us.
We work at maintaining a “Positive Sentiment Override” in our marriage, or what marriage researcher/expert John Gottman says happens when couples find that “positive thoughts about each other and their marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings.” (from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman, PhD and Nan Silver).
Trust me – it’s WAY more fun this way. Recently we both could have been really upset when we couldn’t find the cash that we had left out for our yard guy - the giggles started when it dawned on us that one of our almost year old foster fail puppies ATE the money (yeah, we also laughed at how we ever thought we could just foster puppies and not adopt them) Thank you, my dear husband, for the laughter and silliness of the last 25 years.
And thank you to my lovely and lovingly remembered mother-in-law for this wonderful legacy. We miss you and think of you every time we get the giggles.
Originally published April 21, 2017.