Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Dead and Married
Yesterday's post stirred up some interesting responses. Some people are focusing on the marriage aspect and others on the death aspect. Beanie's focused on the death part and she says Mom is right.
"That we wouldn't know you died until later."
"So what makes you think you're going to be around when I die?"
And the conversation went on from there. Beanie realized that even though she lives in the same state with the rest of the family they don't see each other all the time and don't communicate regularly. She can't be certain she'd know right away that any of the family had died. I did promise her that I'd make sure to die when she was around so she'd know and could phone everyone to let them know I was dead. She's afraid she won't be on time because she missed Dad's last moments by a few moments.
I'm not as morbid as the rest of the family. I make jokes. I laugh. I concentrate on the now and the immediate future. Death and I don't have a close relationship, not like the rest of the family. They check the obits first before reading the rest of the paper and Dad kept a "death book". It was a scrap book full of clippings of family deaths, or people he thought were interesting. It was a hobby. Mom's sending his Death Book to me with the proviso that I keep it up. Well, since I'll be around at least another 96 years, I can do that and make sure all the rest of them get into The Book.
Since I'll have the book I think I'll add my own special views into it, like some of my favorite death jokes.
At the end of the world when the bomb is dropped, the only things that will be left will be cockroaches, moths and Mom.
When Dad was alive, I made him promise to take Mom with him so we could get the group rate on caskets and funerals. Carol hates that joke. Dad and Mom loved it. Then again, Mom plans to be cremated when she dies and wants her ashes put in the box where she keeps Dad's ashes. I told her she needs to let Dad have an eternity free of her. It's not as bad as her first plans to be buried in Dad's grave with him. That was sort of my idea without being buried in the same coffin, just at the same time. Dad reneged on his promise though. He died and left Mom behind. Nothing like leaving your mess for someone else to clean up -- or live with -- but that's Carol's problem. She volunteered.
In a story arc that begins with life and ends with death, about the only other major moment in life, other than having children, is getting married and I've been giving that a lot of thought since Mom keeps bringing up my shameful unmarried state. I'm not worried about getting married, but the idea of marriage and the furor of emotions and philosophical nit picking (interesting story there, too) that goes on because of homosexuals wanting to get married is food for thought.
The political Right and several world religions want to ban homosexual marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman. That's lets out a marriage of the minds and other similar uses for marriage. Marriages of different metals to create a new and stronger bonded metal. Marriages of convenience that are only as sacred as the financial and social gains of the parties involved. Marriages on paper that are little more than two people sharing a name, a house and finances, usually one supporting the other. Green card marriages. Ideological marriages. Shot gun marriages. Incestuous marriages. And I could go on.
The idea that marriage is sacred, especially when you consider the Catholic view that nuns are married to Christ, which makes him a bigger polygamist than Brigham Young or any of his contemporaries, is iffy at best, especially when you consider what that says about monks, brothers and priests. The ick factor is high, Rocky Mountain high. I don't think the furor over marriage has anything to do with being sacred, not when you consider all the loveless marriages based on nothing more than convenience, need and financial or social considerations. Doesn't seem all that sacred to me. It's really not about being sacred but about legitimacy.
Marriage legitimizes children and relationships. A man and a woman can spend their whole loves together, but if they're not married their children are bastards, illegitimate. Even if a couple don't have children, their relationship isn't real, isn't legitimate unless they bind their love up in a holy band. Spend 60 years living together, loving together, being together, struggling together, working together and it's not legitimate in legal terms or in society's eyes unless you sign a paper that says you're married. And there lies the problem.
If homosexuals are allowed to marry, that legitimizes a relationship the majority of society considers an abomination. The argument that it opens the doors to marriage between humans and animals doesn't fly, not when you consider how many people are already married to animals parading around pretending to be human and getting away with it. Society is fine with legitimizing a union between a middle-aged man and a prepubescent girl or a marriage disguised as a social or financial merger. Society is even fine with legitimizing abusive relationships that marginalize both sexes, but not a loving relationship between two people who happen to share the same plumbing. It seems society will tolerate anything but that.
When you deny another person happiness and the right to share love and legal protection it becomes nothing but petty revenge for not following the dictates of presumed societal norms. Commitment comes in many forms and it shouldn't matter who deserves legitimacy. Legitimacy has nothing to do with what a person or group of people deserve. There is no moral high ground here, not when society stands by and allows the supposed sacredness of marriage to be lessened for financial, sociopolitical, religious or ideological sleight of hand.
Marriage, like death, is a fact of life. Death isn't sacred, at least not since human sacrifice was frowned upon as a barbaric custom. Life isn't sacred when anybody with the right equipment can bring children into this world to be abused and used and sacrificed on the altar of legitimacy to protect financial holdings or use to maintain the fiction of legitimacy. Marriage is a legal term that functions to protect communal property and secure the legal status of offspring, adopted or natural born. That's all it is. To deny anyone protection under the law in the name of keeping a legal fiction, in most cases, sacrosanct is the domain of schoolyard bullies.
I've been married twice and the first time I married I had a choice between the father of my unborn child and a man of property, much older than I, who cared for me and wanted to protect me and give me a good life without consummating the union. I chose my unborn child's father and I used to wonder if my life wouldn't have been better had I chosen the other man. I've seen supposedly happy marriages turned into battlegrounds and cold wars to rival the animosity between Russia and America.
I've watched children stunted and emotionally deformed by parents who were more interested in how they appeared to their neighbors than in the fact that they inhabited the same house, barely speaking to each other without abuse and anger. I've seen couples struggle together to bring up their children, sacrificing to give their children a good education, because they loved each other, and without a marriage certificate. I've seen every possible permutation of people coming together, but in the end the relationships that still make me smile were built on love and acceptance, couples who weathered storms and depressions and impossible happiness.
Those relationships had nothing to do with legitimacy and everything to do with love, two people coming together because they couldn't imagine their lives without each other. Not so surprisingly, some of those relationships were between couples who shared the same plumbing, inside and out. I want one of those relationships. Don't you?