Love defeating time

My own parents’ wedding was today (in 1948). Though both are now dead, they were able to share sixty anniversaries. It is as if I attended the wedding itself, my mama told me the whole story so many times: such a rich farce, and such a glorious love anthem.

They weren’t intending to get married on Valentine’s Day; they thought that would be cheesy. But the day got selected for them by “events.” The fact was, my father-to-be in a tuberculosis sanatorium. My mother-to-be had given up much better prospects, much much better prospects, and a life unfolding in another province, to run to his side. They needed to get out of the hospital for one night — by way of the chapel, with a chaplain on call, and a few witnesses lined up for an almost military operation. The problem was the man in charge, at Christie Street. He had to wink, to allow the escape. Fortunately, it was discovered he was an old sentimentalist, and so Valentine’s Day was the ticket. The dear old git contrived to have his staff look the other way, and off they ran to the chapel.

Sixty wedding anniversaries is a lot. I saw quite a few of them, as their son. In light of the world, as it has fallen out, I am in retrospect amazed by what I saw. They were always lovers, and in a serenity not known to contemporary “relationships.” But also with a fierce passion unknown. I cannot forget my embarrassment, to stumble upon them once in their kitchen. They were a couple of wrinkled oldies — octogenarians at the time — and they were kissing like a couple of love-struck teenagers.

Nor forget the last anniversary. By this time things had got worse. They were now in a nursing home, but still together. (Another administrative miracle had had to be performed, to get them in there together.) It was their sixtieth anniversary, and both very feeble, and on top of this my father had lost almost all his marbles. But character is the last thing to go, and he never flagged as a Troubadour.

My mama lost it, couldn’t bear it any more. Papa only sat there, gently smiling, with this look of unearthly benignity on his face. He could not form sentences, he’d lose the thread after two words. He was dying; a pneumonia would soon carry him away.

Mama shrieked, “Jim! I have been talking to you all morning! I’ve been telling you everything, and you just sit there and don’t answer!”

And in reply, he managed suddenly to put a whole sentence together:

“It will be okay, Florrie.”


On the comments thread of the penultimate post, our Chief Argentine Correspondent kindly attached his Spanish translation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI, as a lively refutation of the argument made through an Urdu ghazal. This pleased me. By some perfectly commonplace coincidence, I had just read elsewhere a passing line on the nature of “true love” — to the effect that it “evolves.” And, had sat upon the impulse to type the very same sonnet back, in its original English, by way of my own comment on love “evolving.”

In my first draft of this post I devoted a couple thousand words to a commentary on that sonnet, but got no farther than line four. That is now deleted. Valentine’s is not the day for the lucubrations of a tweed-jacket quasi-English perfesser, who thinks too much.

Gentle reader is instructed to find that sonnet in his Shakespeare, and instead read it very carefully; with a school commentary, if necessary, for it contains at least one Elizabethan idiom that might seriously mislead a modern reader; and word-play from the old Catholic (and Anglican) marriage rite that might otherwise pass over his head.

Shakespeare makes clear that his subject matter is “true love,” and that he is not being clever. Indeed he has pointedly foregone cleverness of posture, to make a statement unambiguous: “Love defeats time.” Of his character Hotspur (in I Henry IV) he said that, “Life is time’s fool”; but here he is saying, absolutely, and explicitly, “Love is not time’s fool.” He does not mean this “figuratively.” He means it actually, and I believe him, because I have seen it with my own eyes.