Let’s hear it for Norman and Norma Burmah of Marksville, La., who, after 82 years, have just achieved a milestone of being the longest living married couple in the United States.
While that’s a big deal in Marksville, it may not be a reason to party in L.A. We’re more inclined out here to celebrate the 72-day marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries as one of America’s shortest marital unions. That still allows plenty of time before and after the wedding for foreplay, dancing, conception and shopping.
I was surprised that none of the news reports out of Louisiana included mention of what the Burmahs feel contributed to their happy marriage, or even if it actually is happy. Perhaps they don’t even speak to one another but instead spend long hours over the breakfast table glaring silently at the dog. Norman is 102 and Norma is 99, so I don’t imagine any hostilities they might possess ever get physical.
I mention the Burmahs to broach the subject of good marriages in general. The incredible Cinelli and I have been wed for 64 years and there is nothing placid or silent about it. Our marriage exists somewhere between Love Story and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
My contribution to whatever placidity exists is to take the blame for everything that goes wrong, even if it isn’t my fault, and to apologize profusely. It confuses Cinelli and eventually defuses her.
Also, small annoyances are not allowed to fester but are bounced off the walls in whatever room we’re in until there is nothing more to be said about them and they go away. What is critical one evening isn’t even remembered the next, so we just start all over again.
For instance, I hum occasionally in bits of tuneless subliminal buzzes, and to Cinelli it sounds like distant horseflies circling the room. She takes it as long as she can and then says, “Sing, hum louder or shut up!” I am, however, unable to stop because I don’t always even know I’m humming. I grew up with my mother cooking and humming La Cucaracha and it is part of my soul.
But I want our marriage to last so I force the last tune out of my mouth, clamp down hard on my teeth and leave the cockroaches to their silence and bitterness down deep in the double helix of my DNA. If for some reason strings of humming linger in the air from some distant piece of machinery and she still thinks it’s me, I accept the blame and apologize.
Works every time.