Archive for May, 2014

by Ruth Minshull

We never really know people until we spend time together under the same roof, until we see them when they wake up in the morning, until we watch the news together, share a few meals, walk to our favorite places with them.

There may be countless acquaintances (or even public figures) that we assume would be enjoyable companions or spouses. But we don’t know this, because we haven’t lived with them. We see them only on their “good behavior” and (in our imagination) we may add intriguing depths beneath the veneer of their “company manners.”

But sharing our personal space with them dissolves the mystique. We discover their true character and whether or not it is compatible with our own.

This week I spent three days with an older relative who came for a visit. I have never been with him for more than a few hours at a time. He lived in the same town I did when I was young, so he was someone who stopped by often, would chat with the folks for a few minutes and leave. Sometimes he would take us all for a ride. But we had never lived under the same roof and he had never before been a guest in my house.

My lifelong impression of him is as a good-natured, decent soul who seemed to maintain a child-like wonder about life. He has loved trains since early childhood. He spent his entire working life on the railroad–as a fireman, then an engineer. Even now, at the age of 88, one of his favorite forms of evening entertainment, is to drive to the nearest railroad crossing, wait for a train to come, watch it go by, and return home. (To me this is only slightly more exciting than standing in the Laundromat and watching the washing machines run.)

I’ve always liked this man, although I have guessed that he is not a person of towering intellect. Only by living in the same house with him have I learned to know him well.

To my amazement, I discovered that a very short visit was enough. In that time I could learn all there really is to know about him. I would hear his repertoire of stories and anecdotes, his philosophical commentaries, his collection of colloquialisms, his litany of fatuous clichés.

In less than three hours I could hear it all. From then on it becomes excruciatingly, boringly, exhaustively redundant.

If forced to spend much more time with him, I would feel that I was being severely punished.

To a thinking person, there can be no greater cruelty than having to maintain a facade of polite interest in the company of a stupid, shallow, utterly predictable bore.

Of course, my relative is still the good-natured, decent soul with a child-like wonder about life.

But he is also so much more–of so much less.

I thought about what’s required for a good marriage.

Well, for starters, the couple must be on similar mental and spiritual wavelengths. Too much disparity in intellect leaves both people very lonely.

Neither person should be trying to manipulate the other.

They must grant each other space–to be in, to grow in, to change in.

Most important of all, they must not bore the hell out of each other.

© Ruth Minshull 2014



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