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I speak a fair amount in public - I can wait until you all quiet down.
There are a fair number of empty chairs here, and although Iíll refrain from emulating Clint Eastwood, we should take a moment to consider the people who were supposed to be in those chairs, and appreciate the safety issues that caused them to be absent from this joyous occasion.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic is causing chaos and trouble, not only for those infected, hurt, and killed, but also for their families and friends. While we are inconvenienced, others are truly suffering. We are more than lucky that we have the wherewithal to choose our path.
For those of you who donít know me, Iím Marc; Zachís father. Even though Iíve got a completely captive audience here, Iím going to refrain from discussing politics with all of you, but Iím open to private conversations later if you want to hear the polemics of a progressive socialist. Along with being glad that Iím not discussing politics, you should also be glad that Iím wearing these tuxedo pants here, against my personal wishes. One of the clothing options that Susie and I discussed was my NOT wearing any pants. Susie actually endorsed that outfit, indicating that it might lend credence toward the notion that her family wasnít the only band of, letís just say, out of the ordinary folks out there. But here I am, with pants - while I have no embarrassment genes, I didnít want to embarrass anyone else.
First, let me tell everyone that as someone that is not inherently a happy person, this is one of the four or five happiest days of my life. Zachís birth; Deanie and I moving in together; the Yankeeís world series victories during my lifetime; the first flight of an airplane that I built and didnít kill myself in, and today - in no particular order, these are my happiest times.
Deanie and I have waited a lifetime for this day - knowing that my son has found someone who loves him and whom he loves back - someone with whom he can build a life and have a family - thatís as much as a parent can ever ask. And while Deanie and I are extremely happy for Zach, over the years weíve come to know and love Susie and are just as happy for her that she will have the same opportunity to build a life and family. We both feel as though weíve gained the second child that we long thought we wanted but never had, and we are extremely happy that itís Susie.
Iím not going to talk much about Zach - his friends here either have already or will discuss his foibles and idiosyncrasies in order to embarrass and make fun of him, as well as possibly discuss some positive attributes. Iíll just say that aside from a relatively short period of time through high-school and early college when we abandoned him; homeless except for his college dorm on the east coast at Syracuse University while we moved out west to California, and during which period we wanted to strangle him with our bare hands (or a garrote) at any and every available opportunity, Zach has been a good and wonderful child and has turned into the caring, loving, giving adult for whom we had always hoped. Heís self-aware (possibly too much) 10 - 15 years earlier than I ever was, and his understanding of himself indicates a progression in the Zeitlin family that is heartening to me, given my fatherís complete lack of self-awareness and my relatively late achievement. Deanie and I love him very much and are very proud of his accomplishments but more importantly - much more importantly - his development as a human being.
We first met Susie when Zach brought her out to California for the holidays in December, 2016. She and Zach had been dating for about 3 months at the time. Susie immediately struck us as kind, warm, intelligent, vivacious, beautiful, and ambitious. Our impression of Susie as all of those things and more has only grown stronger over the past three years as weíve come to know and love her. We are thrilled to have her join our family (and have Zach join hers). Deanie feels extremely close to Susie, and so do I. We look forward with joy to the prospect of having her in our lives forever.
Lastly, one of Susieís greatest strengths (and I want to make this very clear) is that in the years that Iíve known her, Iíve never once felt the need or desire to strangle her.
Iíve been married now for 33 Ĺ years and have been together with Deanie for 36 years, since we met in a jazz dance class back in 1983 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most of those years reasonably successfully, so again, with a captive audience, Iím going to give Zach and Susie some free advice and the rest of you are just going to have to sit back and take it too. As with patents and inventions, once you see or hear it, it seems obvious. And this advice will seem that way too - just common sense, youíll think, but just because something seems obvious or commonsensical doesnít mean that people actually DO it.
I donít know that thereís a hierarchy here - that one of these learnings is the most important of the list of things to do to have a successful relationship. Maybe. But more likely, all of them are important. Theyíre all intertwined and related.
First, Iíd like to disabuse you of a common belief. The standard romantic notion of love, romance and being happy together is false - itís an extremely rare couple that falls in love, marries and has a simple, happy life together without having to work hard at it. Those 95 year old people whoíve been married for 75 years and have never had an argument - theyíre out in the 6 sigma range - theyíre news because theyíre extremely rare. Marriage, or any partnership, is work - continuous work. Itís good work, but work nonetheless. You try together, and mostly youíll get it right, but youíll screw up too. And just like the movie Groundhog Day, you keep trying, every day, over and over again, until you find what works for both of you. You will pray to whatever deity or force you believe in, or just the universe, that your partner is willing to put up with you and your bullshit until you figure out how to get it right. And for the things that you never figure out or just cannot do (and those WILL exist), that theyíre willing to put up with your bullshit forever.
Part of love is knowing the other person well. But do not ever assume that your partner, much less anyone else, knows what youíre thinking - no one can see inside your head (and a good part of the time, you canít either). If thereís something you like - tell them. If thereís something you donít like - tell them. Your partner cannot read your mind, and you can never expect them to, as much as it would be nice for then to be able to intuit your thoughts and desires.
Most of you are probably too young to have seen it, but the movie ďLove StoryĒ (a sappy, crappy movie if there ever was one) popularized the saying ďLove means never having to say youíre sorryĒ. Erich Segal got that exactly backwards. Love, in its purest form, means saying youíre sorry (and both being willing to and happy to say youíre sorry) if not quite incessantly, then at least every time you screw up. And you will screw up, because youíre a human being. But when you say ďIím sorryĒ you better mean it, too - it cannot be the forced apology of a four year old for pulling their sisterís hair. You must be willing to admit your error (sometimes even if it wasnít an error, but just something that hurt your partner) - to commit to at least attempting to change the behavior - and to ensure that your partner knows that you mean it. You can never assume that they implicitly understand these things - apologies for mistakes are critical.
As my father, Zachís grandfather, demonstrated his whole life, love is an inexhaustible commodity. Each of us has the capacity to manufacture it from the vacuum of space, and it never runs out. Itís not a weapon - as Mark Knopfler says, ďyou canít make somebody love you by threatening to leaveĒ - and itís no good if you hoard it - as Delbert McClinton says ďLove ainít no good till you give it awayĒ. Love is not conditional or transactional - itís not dependent upon what the other person does (or doesnít do). You give your love to your partner because itís what you feel and because it will benefit them, not so that you can get love (or anything else) back from them. Loving someone is its own reward.
Which leads indirectly to my next (and for all of you, hopefully last) subject - purpose. 11 Ĺ years ago, while going through a tough time with Deanie, I had a number of long discussions with a religious friend who encouraged me to seek purpose in being of service to others. While much of todayís culture revolves around concentration on oneís self - seeking happiness and achievement for oneís own sake, his advice (and this is certainly not a new theory, but one I had not spent a lot of time contemplating up until that point) was quite the opposite. Live for other people. Our purpose is to take care of others and everything around us. This is closely related to the Mahayana Buddhist concept of the Bodhisattva, one who aspires and works to end suffering for all sentient beings.
I internalized this thought process and now believe that itís a critical part of the success of any relationship - the other person is always more important than you are. This does not imply a complete sublimation of needs or desires - only that you come 2nd, and your partner first. It is not martyrdom - it is gaining purpose by serving others.
If thereís any hierarchy here, to me it goes like this:
Serve others. Understand that you both need to place the other person first, sacrifice, and understand, particularly in the difficult times, that your partner is sacrificing too - if in no other way than by putting up with your issues and idiosyncrasies. If you can do these things, you can successfully grow old and happy together.
Now, go off and make your own mistakes and learn from them, because Cthulhu knows, itís almost impossible to learn anything from other peopleís mistakes. Be as happy as you both can be. Thanks.
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