by Henry Lane Hull
Ten years and six months to the day after I began writing this column I entered a new phase of life with the birth of our son. It is called fatherhood.
Inasmuch as I like using archaic terms, in the piece I penned about his arrival I referred to him as a Blessed Event. Later in the item, trying to be thrifty with words I shortened the term to B.E., and thus it has remained for a quarter of a century.
Fifteen months later, upon the birth of his sister, I repeated the usage, thereafter referring to each of them as either the Elder or the Younger B.E. Last Saturday a new era dawned with the Elder B.E.’s marriage. His spouse is younger than he, but older than his sister, thus I am thinking of her as the Middle B.E. He and she have been dating for almost six years, thus I have had ample time to contemplate how to designate her in the new sequence.
In this latest stage in which I have added father-in-lawhood to fatherhood, I am reflecting on the many suggestions about matrimony I received upon my own marriage. Florence Kellum, my banker, gave particularly prescient advice when she told me that she had found the key to her own happy marriage had been “100% give on both sides.”
Florence is extremely adept at figures, and she said to forget this 50-50 business; it is all or nothing. Over the years that have passed I appreciate that her marital counsel was as spot-on as her banking advice.
My Good Wife agreed with Florence’s counsel, and we have tried to follow it as best we could. I think the time that represents most accurately that acceptance on her part was a trip back from her homeland on the Eastern Shore many years ago when she held a box of baby ducklings on her lap for the whole trip, knowing how much they meant to me. That incident was truly 100% on her part.
For over 10 years before walking down the aisle myself, I had known the late Lord Craigmyle, a British peer, who was a jolly gentleman, full of wisdom. When I told him I had “gotten married,” he corrected me and said, “You mean you have committed matrimony.” His point was to emphasize the commitment involved, and I have thought of him often as being among other distinctions a great marriage counselor.
Having made the matrimonial commitment at an age slightly beyond the pale of youth, many friends told me I should have to adjust my bachelor habits and ways to the new order. Actually, that part was not at all difficult, as sharing was far more fun that doing everything by myself.
Numerous friends said that they had thought I was a confirmed bachelor, to which I replied that I was not even a “baptized bachelor.” I simply had not met the right person until I met the one I married, and I knew 15 minutes after we met that indeed she was the one. She took a bit longer to come to the same conclusion, and we exchanged vows nine months to the day after we first met.
Until being married myself I previously did not comprehend the extent to which marriage is a genuine community event. When family and friends gather to witness the occasion, their roles do not end with the last song at the reception, but rather are beginning as the support that a newlywed couple needs, regardless of the age of the parties involved.
I do not presume that father-in-lawhood makes me any wiser or more profound as a marriage pundit, but I am overwhelmed with joy at having a Middle B.E.