My wife is a woman of few words. Thus, when she does speak, one had better pay attention because what she says is likely to be highly significant and ignored at one's peril. I, on the other hand, am never at a shortage for words. My favorite pastime is to bug my wife. Some times I sing a Christmas carol in July, a few lines of a hymn, quote a scripture, snap my fingers, or find other creative ways to annoy her. I asked her the other day, "Why do you never try to bug me?" Her answer was incredibly simple and somewhat overpowering. "I don't bug you," she said, "because you are perfect."
She says stuff like that because it saves her a lot of effort to go into detail. I rattle on and on throughout the day and occasionally she will show signs of alertness and say profound things like "Right," or, "I agree", no matter how outrageous my comments. Thus after 65 years, including three years of courtship and 62 years of marriage, we have few arguments. I remember only a few things that really irked her. One was my leaving books, magazines, and newspapers strewn all over the house, which I thought was contributing to our literary sophistication and accumulation of valuable and esoteric knowledge. Apparently I was wrong.
One of the problems is that she is clearly smarter than I am. One day, to prove my point, I announced, "You have to remember, dear, I am a Doctor of Philosophy!" To which she replied in a flash, "Wow, I am really impressed!"
But after six and a half decades many of our conversations are unspoken, or nearly so. She always tells me she knows how I am each morning from the sound of my voice and the first two or three words I speak. From that, she knows whether I had a rough night or feel like tackling the day. I can tell by looking at the strain and worry lines on her face how much pain she is in at any given moment without her saying a word. Thus, we complete each other's sentences, read each other's minds, and agree on basic issues of politics and daily life.
The other day I asked her a question that annoyed her when I asked, "But do you love me?" She thought she didn't need to answer that question and so I played her the duet between Tevye and Golde from Fiddler on the Roof. Golde thought for a moment that Tevye may just have indigestion. But Tevye persisted. Then they both concluded that they supposed they did love each other but, though they thought "it doesn't change a thing. . . it's nice to know."
The best conversational words remain "please," "thank you," "can I do something for you?", "what do you need?", "how are you feeling?", "do you remember . . .?", and maybe an "excuse me" and a few "I'm sorries," and yes, it doesn't hurt to throw in an occasional "Yes, I love you," but you have to make sure you mean it and that your actions prove it. And it helps to ask your spouse, "what TV channel do you want to watch?," and then let her watch it and act like you enjoy it. And then, quick forgiveness for things that either do or don't matter saves wounds and emotional scars by the bushel.
And once we take all of these things into account, it doesn't take a whole lot of words to get along from day to day taking care of each other the best we can as we share our precious past and face our uncertain future. I know I am not perfect, but can you imagine being married to someone for 62 years who will pull the wool over your eyes and tell you that you are, in fact, perfect? I can only count my blessings. Now I have got to go watch the BYU women's volleyball team play Penn State for the national championship.