By Roy Verley of Aptos — TPG 2017 Poetry Contest Winner
When I read about the Valentine’s Day Poetry Contest in the Aptos Times in January, I knew I had to give it a shot. It wasn’t just the winner’s prize – a $100 gift certificate to Sanderlings, one of the area’s finest restaurants – that got my attention. This was personal. I like to write. I adore my wife and love to surprise her. And I strongly applaud the idea that citizen poetry is recognized and celebrated in our community.
“What could be more fun than to write a few sweet verses about Colette and maybe, just maybe, win the contest?” I asked myself. “What a surprise that would be!”
So I went to work.
The first date: not exactly textbook
I chuckled as I recalled our first date, nearly 40 years ago, and how everything seemed so normal and relaxing about it. Maybe it was because we’d started as workplace friends, with no pretense or expectations. Or maybe it was because we were outwardly different in many ways – no pressure to conform, no need to impress, just two people being ourselves.
Whatever the case, something clicked that night as we shared stories and enjoyed take-out pizza at her new apartment. It wasn’t the romantic scenario we’d both imagined for the perfect first date, but that made the experience all the more authentic. We trusted what we were feeling, though we didn’t yet know what it was.
Courtship leads to a discovery
We became inseparable from that day forward. Months flew by, marked by an amazing discovery: we were very, very happy together. And in that discovery, we came to appreciate that love is not scripted, not always rational, and certainly not confined to the usual places.
The beauty of love is locked up in its mystery, not in its predictability. It is confounding and exasperating and absolutely essential, all at the same time. And it happens whether you’re ready for it or not.
Colette and I were married in 1980 at St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco. Our lives together have been fulfilling beyond our dreams. Today, we are both semi-retired, with two adult daughters and one grandchild. We still have a few differences, but there has never been a day when we weren’t blessedly in love.
“You wrote this?”
The piece I wrote for the poetry contest was inspired by the experiences we’ve shared during our 36 years of marriage. Amazingly, it won in the “30 or more years of marriage” category. I surprised Colette with a copy of the poem and gift certificate to Sanderlings in her Valentine’s card. Her reaction: “Huh. You wrote this?” And then she gave me a terrific hug!
We enjoyed a superb dinner at Sanderlings in early March. Seated by a window with full view of the ocean, we watched a glorious sunset as we sipped sangria (specially made for Colette) and chardonnay. Then we dug into a delectable apple and bacon salad, spicy Manhattan-style clam chowder, free-range roast chicken and prawn scampi, with a tasty apple cobbler for dessert. All told, it was one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had! Thank you, Sanderlings and Times Publishing Group, for making it possible.
What we’ve learned
It’s impossible to recount all the lessons we’ve learned over the course of our marriage, but some stand out. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Marriage is not a competition. It works best as a partnership of equals, with each willing to compromise or concede a point to the other much of the time. Learning when to yield can be hard, but it invariably results in a stronger relationship built on mutual respect and equal footing rather than arguing skills.
- Words matter. Some are very hard to take back. We have learned to disagree candidly without making the issue unduly personal. A niece caught up in a marital spat once asked us how often we call each other nasty names. She was shocked by my answer. “Never,” I said. “It isn’t who we are.”
- Suffocation is as bad for a marriage as starvation. There’s nothing wrong with giving space to a spouse who needs time to be alone or pursue things independently. Conversely, there’s nothing wrong with wanting attention and companionship now and then. Finding the right balance is part of any healthy marriage.
- Communicate openly and listen well, but don’t ignore body language. Colette and I share our thoughts and feelings regularly, but we’re both aware that nonverbal communication – or silence – is sometimes more revealing. Patience and empathy usually solve the problem in time.
- Trust is everything. Do all you can to strengthen and protect it. It will set.