I recently read something that took me back a little. A marriage counselor made the remark that in light of the fact that young people getting married have no training or experience for the job, it’s not surprising so many marriages fall apart.
I suppose it’s true. One minute two young people are standing at the altar, filled with joy, madly in love, and saying their vows. And the next minute they’re in a half empty apartment, with barely enough money to scrape by, a baby in diapers, bills up to their ears, and Hamburger Helper on the stove. It isn’t easy, and I suspect a little good luck goes a long way.
I don’t mind telling you that Lolly and I had more than our share of good luck. If ever there was a marriage which could have been declared dead-on-arrival it was ours.
Inexperience? Hah! Try this on for inexperience.
Lolly was born in British India. In British India the cook did the cooking, the bearer did the beds and served the meals, the hamal did the laundry, the sweeper did the floors, and the ayah took care of the children. Lolly’s parents were not members of the wealthy upper class, but even middle-class British families had servants. Not because they were lazy, but because they were expected to return something to the poor of a nation where five dollars a month was still a good wage when I arrived in 1959.
Lolly’s mother would normally have seen to it that she learned all she needed to be a more than competent wife and mother, but fate stepped in and made that impossible. Lolly’s father returned in 1946 after six long years of World War II, only to find his wife dying of a dread disease. And then, just six months later in 1947, four youngsters — Jim 14, Lolly 12, Trevor 9, and Betty 7, became wards of the state when an airliner carrying a high government official — and their dad — was blown out of the sky. An aunt and uncle stepped in, but it wasn’t the same.
And me? If I showed you the skeletal looking groom in our wedding pictures you would think that Lolly married a wraith. It had been my good fortune three months earlier to be stricken with supposedly incurable amoebic dysentery. It may have been my fault. Perhaps I let a little shower water get in my mouth. Or wet my toothbrush with tap water instead of the boiled stuff. I don’t know. I just know that those bugs literally turned me inside out.
The Lord was looking out for me though. He arranged that the special handling labels for three crates of secret material were somehow mislaid. I treated it as ordinary classified cargo and received a stiff dose of radiation for my trouble. It didn’t make me feel any happier at first, but when I began to get better the doctor gave me a stool test, scratched his head, and said the radiation must have killed the bugs.
And it only FELT like it had killed me.
So there Lolly and I were, in a small rented apartment because the Air Force does not provide housing for men who get married overseas. You should have seen the two of us that first day. In one way we were uproariously happy. We at least had a place to live. Of the 5 million people in what had once been the “White City of The Orient,” more than 4 million lived in indescribable conditions in primitive mud huts.
However, I doubt that a pair of newlyweds ever eyed a kitchen range quite the way we did ours. Ever seen a concrete kitchen range? A large rectangular block with two round blackened holes in its top and a pair of kerosene burners hidden in there somewhere?
That’s where we started, staring down two blackened holes.
Been a long ride, Johnny. Fifty-three years.
Every minute of it great.
Do I have to tell you why?
Lima-Oscar-Victor-Echo, as we would have put it back in my radio operator days.
For you civilians: LOVE.