beloved wife

In ALL, MARRIAGE, MUSIC by Stephanie Klein51 Comments


There are certain songs I listen to on repeat without apology.  In college, while I was locked inside my dorm for an entire weekend, in the same pajamas, playing Myst like a nerd, I listened to Anna Begins by The Counting Crows over and over again.  I do it until it’s in my bones, like cold after a day of watching soccer from the sidelines in late fall.  It has to get to every part of me.  I did the same thing with Lisa Loeb’s Sandalwood and Midnight Train to Georgia and Love Will Come to You by The Indigo Girls.  I Think I’ll Disappear Now by Crash Test Dummies.  I could go on for a long damn time.  Lately, it’s been:
Eleanor by Low Millions. 
Trouble Sleeping by The Perishers.
Your Nervous Heart by Rhett Miller.
Diamond Ring by Pedro the Lion.
Jane by The Barenaked Ladies.
Hands Down by Dashboard Confessional
And mostly at night, Beloved Wife by Natalie Merchant.

My grandmother died eleven years ago, leaving behind a husband, two sons, and two granddaughters.  I was with her men last night in my father’s car as we drove my grandfather back to his house after dinner.  He was telling us about his neighbors, about the woman down the hall who reads my blog and invited him to the movies to see Cinderella Man.  “I ask her about you, to keep up.  She knows more about what you’re up to everyday than I do.  She said, ‘boy does she like clothes.’” 
“Yes, clothing.”
“Clothes?  Maybe from my photos.  I don’t think I write about clothes.”
“Must be.” 
“Grandpa, you should go with her to the movie.  You’ll love it.”
“Have you seen that feature?”
“No, but I want to.  You really should go.”  Then he complained about his eyesight and wasn’t sure he’d be able to see the screen properly.  He just had to give up his car.  It must be very frustrating, aging, having to depend on people.  The older you get, the more people treat you like an infant, I suppose. 

“I have another neighbor,” he continued, “who stopped me in the lobby the other day.  A very nice woman.  She said, ‘May I ask you a personal question?’ I said, ‘Sure.’  She then asked, ‘Why don’t you get remarried?’”  She asked as if it’s a decision, like one day waking up and deciding you’d like to add banana to your cereal.

“Because I’m still in love with my wife.” 

I want to love someone that much, enough to put them on repeat for the rest of my life.


  1. My wife asked me this weekend, 'is it true most men think marriage is completely unnatural– an institution incompatable with their biological instincts?'

    I just emailed her this post.

  2. That is the most wonderful thing I've ever heard. I wish I could give your grandpa a big hug…

  3. I, too, want to give your grandpa a great big hug. And that's exactly the kind of love I long to have one day. I suppose that truly defines the expression, "the love of my life."

  4. I've read every one of your posts over the past few months. This one…right now…is my favorite.

  5. What a beautiful connection/analogy you drew there, it really honored his love for her in a way that those of us who've never felt that kind of love can appreciate.

  6. What a beautiful connection/analogy you drew there, it really honored his love for her in a way that those of us who've never felt that kind of love can appreciate.

  7. To have that kind of love you have to be able to completely open yourself up and fall in love. Most people won't do that because they can't stand being hurt. Little do they know that you never see how amazing love really is until you've seen both extreme spectrums of it. The pain it causes is just as incredible as the completely head-over-heels happiness and infatuation it causes. People always want the good without the bad. It doesn't work that way. You have to hang it out there…and you will probably have to do it multiple times…taking the hits from the disappointments and keep going. Not many people are available enough emotionally to really see love for what it can be…

  8. Truly wonderful.

    My grandma has been without my grandpa for nearly 30 years, and I know she's still completely in love with him. I too would like to find a love that would be the only song I would need for the rest of my life.

  9. It's all I write about… taking a leap. You have to sometimes take the step, hold your breath, hope, and leap. I know loving that much means as high as you can get is as low as you can feel. There's a direct correlation, but if you don't risk, you never get what you want. And wanting is beautiful. As I've said before, "Refusing to feel desire is the only thing more painful than failing to get what you want, and learning not to yearn, trying to prevent disappointment, ultimately guarantees it." You live life once… why be safe about everything? Man, it also feels so fucking awesome to love someone like that.

  10. Aah, but the life and the marriage is always beautiful and sweet when it is full of the songs and life and good dessert. For me, the song that plays mainly in my life is The Ways Of The Rose from Edith Piaf and The Winner Takes It All from ABBA. Without that songs, I would kill somebody from the trouble and the anger I have to all people.

  11. That really is a beautiful thing. I guess that, sometimes (in very special cases), even "'till death do us part" can be a little shallow.

  12. With you on the staying power of Counting Crows!

    It is a leap, and maybe we don't tell each other enough that it takes work too. You have to open yourself up to hurt to really be open to love. (Coming up to 10 years) Loves – and that includes animals, as well as a people, can't be replaced. And the memories we make are what get us through the days.

  13. That's really sweet… sometimes I wonder about true love, and untimely deaths… I wonder if I'd let myself fall in love again, because somehow it doesn't seem quite right to love someone else and remarry, even though it doesn't seem quite right to be alone either if I were still rather young. Though I haven't even married once, so it's something I probably shouldn't worry about too much yet. But yes, I'd like to think that real love lasts even after death… that it's irreplacable.

  14. I have a grandfather in the same boat. However, it angers me that some relatives refer to him as a lost soul, because my grandmother isn't there. Why do people see love as a weakness? While she was his finest blessing, she wasn't his only blessing. He seems to realize this just fine, but still, people say shit.

  15. That's a great story, and I hope you do find that kind of love if you haven't already. There are few good relationships in our world these days, and I think modern lifestyles and circumstances have put pressures on them to be this way. But at the end of the day, provided all participating parties are of sound mind and heart and actually want a relationship to work, it's the patience, love, and trust that can make it happen and make it last, even past death. It just happens to be that in today's world of wanting everything at our service now and all, we sometimes forget how to do those things. Love is and should be stronger than most of us give it credit. When you find it, you'll be shocked by those invisible ties that just stand through it all.

    Whether you believe in the Christian God or not is pretty irrelevant for this, as it's just something pretty and wise to think on:

    "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

    I think your grandfather must have had a piece of that, and that's such a blessing. It hopefully shows many that that infamous "true love" is worth waiting for; second best just doesn't ever do as well.

  16. it's really beautiful stories like this that reminds me that man is capable of loving someone else more than himself.

  17. just a quick driveby to say – Hands Down by Dashboard Confessional is one of my "listen to over and over" songs also

  18. Sweet post. I love how you can tie everything together in a little bow like you did in the last sentence. Of course, love your song choices. Working on the next CD. Stay tuned.

  19. Don't all of you realize that it is this "all-or-nothing" idealization of true love that everyone is describing here that usually leaves people bereft of any kind of love? What's wrong with "perfectly okay" love? And believe it or not, one can be in love with more than one person, often at the same time. I think only in a culture like ours where people are allowed to indulge their infinite wants do we have this kind of lofty, extreme expectations of what a loving relationship should be. If we were living in Iraq we would be happy enough knowing that someone, anyone thinks we're alright. Hell, most of us would settle for our camel liking us.

  20. I think that such a loss will paralyse one for a long time and even though one loves the late partner like life itself I completely understand if someone's looking for new company in the winter of life.
    Steph, I also immensely like the view of your grandfather and hope that this kind of love helps me through the day someday because you'll never know.

  21. Not to completely destroy the debate, but it's possible that both Hefner and Laura are right and a little wrong. Perhaps some men and women aren't meant to be with one person, and it's an individual decision to be made by that person as to what makes them happy. The problem comes when the person making this decision is not honest with themself or is not honest with the other person.

  22. In my opinion, human beings were not genetically wired to mate for life – few animals are. Marriage and all that goes with it is a societal construct not a natural behavior.

    Love, on the other hand, is something that even the greatest of scientific minds has not been able to quantify or define in any rational way.

    Relationships such as the one that Stephanie's grandfather was lucky enough to experience with his wife are an anomaly, but they do happen.

    If great love is what you want, why settle for anything less? It all comes down to choices.

    You can choose to settle or you can choose to hold out for the love of your life. It's a crapshoot, but not everyone's a loser.

  23. What a fabulous post. I love how you compared playing a song over and over again to the love your grandpa still has for his wife.

    Such a sweet story, and it makes me want someone to love me in the same way.

  24. It makes me wonder…is falling in love actually harder now then staying in love? Does our generation even know? It seems like there are tons of barriers. I know I threw up plenty of them in the early stages with my fiance. It seems like it's just hard to get to in love, but then again nothing great was ever easy, but overall, is it caution or over-cautious?

  25. Very sweet. Your grandfather sounds like a lovely man. Ever heard of "Where Have You Been?" by Kathy Mattea? That's another song you have to listen to on repeat. Your grandpa's sentiment about still being in love with his wife made me think of it.

    Oh, and I used to listen to "Anna Begins" on repeat, too. Love it!

  26. There is no such thing as a perfect love, just as there is no such thing as a perfect job or a perfect house or a perfect life. But women are raised in this culture to believe a perfect man exists for them, and its women's never-ending search for this human equivalent of a unicorn that is driving them and everyone else nuts. And because this is a culture that presents women (and men) with a seemingly endless array of options to choose from, women aren't settling for just "so-so" or "average." They keep looking for what they will never find, throwing out along the way many decent and otherwise nice, great guys. Women refuse to give anyone but the archetypes they've created in their consumer heads a chance. Their expectations are ridiculous. They're also missing out on what is true and most wonderful about love (and life), which is that it is a work in progress that constantly reveals itself but requires a continual and honest give-and-take. To learn more, read "Undressing Infidelity: Why More Wives Are Unfaithful" by Diane Shader Smith.

  27. I agree with Hugh.

    I have some married friends (my age – early 30s) who are very happy, and who I'm sure will be together for the rest of their lives. And the reason is simple: they're boring. They're not on the lookout for excitement, adventure, risk-taking, etc. They don't want new bars, new restaurants, new shoes, etc.

    My friends aren't attractive. He doesn't have a "power move". He's not "confident but not arrogant". They don't have particularly good senses of humor. They're frugal.

    But they love each other, and they love their kids, and they'll be together for the rest of their lives. And they're great friends, both to each other and to me.

  28. In response to Hugh Hefner's comment, the devil's advocate would say that the idea that we can love more than one person at one time is just a patriarchical excuse created to defend men who can't keep it in their pants…especially if you are going to compare our culture to one in which men rule and bigomy is widely accepted, and forced upon women.

    Nonetheless, I don't see what's so wrong in at least striving for true love. Why is dreaming about it so bad? Why can't we want the best for ourselves? I used to have the same cynical outlook before I met my true love, and now I'm a cooing, googly eyed dork. I know that when I'm an old lady, I'll be saying the same thing about him that Stephanie's grandpa said about his wife. When you got it, you got it.

  29. Just curious, Hugh…why on earth would anyone settle for someone they consider "so-so" or "ordinary"?

    I know I certainly wouldn't and I think anyone who would lacks the self esteem to believe that they are worth better.

    And before you get your knickers in a twist…

    I'm not saying that there aren't people out there who many might consider ordinary who are happily married to one another. I'm simply saying that if you choose to marry someone (or otherwise commit to a life together) you damn well better believe that the person you are with is extraordinary…to you.

  30. Hugh over generalizes, but there is a germ of truth to his suggestion that many women (and men, I'd add) shop for a perfect (or at least unreal) mate they never find. This problem is, to some extent, exacerbated by on-line dating, where a smorgasbord of potential mates is presented, where many people are inundated with offers (however insincere or misguided), and where there is always someone else to pick up if you decide to drop the potential-mate-de-jour.

    I think, though, that reality sets in with age – values change, our own sense of self modifies, biological/cultural clock-ticking amplifies – and at some point, we may come to the realization that a bird-in-hand is a bird worth keeping (without reference to British slang).

    And, some of us, by some stroke of luck or providence, find that mate who is perfect, at least perfect for us. S/he may be someone another might view as “ordinary” (largely out of myopia or some other alteration of perspective), but not ordinary in our minds after having garnered real perspective in the search that preceded the find.

    I say, keep looking until you know what you want and you don’t want (you know what’s really important in a mate) – true love is about fit, not about image or some other criteria that are separate from a collective you.

  31. Love isn't supposed to make sense, it's just there. Lets just love, and appreciate that we can. Love is a manmade word. It's just this thing. Enjoy it. We can write about it all day and night but those are just other words. It's fabulous, it makes life worth living, and its why humans go beyond biological reasons of survival. Thats it. No more. Ain't it grand? Yankees suck.

  32. Stephanie – keep up that taste is things Canadian. You know the BNL better than most – give The Tragically Hip's – 38 Years old and Fiddler's Green a spin.- rob

  33. How about "I dont think I'll ever get over you" by Colin Hay. It was put in the Garden State soundtrack. Thats a great longing for love song.

  34. LOVELY post! Your comparison of the songs that we feel with ever fiber of our bodies and the love of our life…..both wonderful things to keep on repeat…
    Well said.

  35. Natalie Merchant hit the right notes with the right words in that entire album. those songs get deep into you and make the pent up ball of emotion inside just burst and alow your soul to flow, whenever i'm having a bad day at the office i just pop in tigerlily or some Izreal Kamakawiwo and just melt into a state of euphoria… oops here comes my boss

  36. After my first wife left, I was never able to love that deeply again… the wounds were too deep.

    Sad, and not something you can choose to simply overcome.

  37. Stephanie, is Plantation in love with you, or am I really getting the wrong end of the stick?….

  38. Funny. I listen to a lot of the same songs in almost the same situations. My Beloved Wife always puts the old noggin in overdrive. Maybe it's because I am married and don't want to imagine feeling that way, but at the same time I know I would. It's not hard to realize when you're with that person though. When the person who pisses you off the most is the same person that you can't stand to be away from, it's most certainly love.

  39. Awh yes, I love this post. Great set-up of feelings.

    I also love this saying by another poster: “While she was his finest blessing, she wasn’t his only blessing. “

  40. My husband has plans to outlive me (don’t ask). I hope these are his sweet sentiments someday. Well written post, btw.

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