I’m pretty sure that this song could be Kelvin Rockwell’s theme song. Maybe. It’s the opening lines that really get my attention.
But this leads to the next of Father Santos’ lessons.
“Isabella, I want to understand how your grandparents could have spent so many years together. Given my circumstances, it boggles my mind that they could. I sat before your grandfather’s grave and thought about what his life may have been like. I thought of what sixty years of marriage might be like. I tried to figure out the ways in which your grandfather may have found happiness in a way that I simply cannot figure out within my own marriage. I wondered about what sacrifices he had to make and about what he had to forgive to find a way through all of those years.
“I am sorry if seeing me in front of your grandfather’s grave has upset you. I didn’t mean to offend you. I was only there because I have these questions that need to be answered. I . . . I’m lost and scared and I don’t know what to do. I’m looking for answers wherever I can find them.
“In the waves crashing on the beach out there.” I waved absentmindedly in the direction of the ocean.
“In the words of Father Santos and the lessons he has tried to teach me.” Father Santos was quietly translating my words as I spoke. He paused for a moment and I looked at him. He had a smile on his face and he nodded slightly to me.
“I hope you have been listening well, señor,” he said to me.
I continued on in the headlong rush of words I found myself in. “I look for something meaningful in the weeding he insists I do every day.” I stopped for a second or two before I continued. “Do you, Isabella, know that you have to weed every day? If you don’t, the weeds will take over and kill everything in your garden.” I hit my hand on the table several times while I spoke the lessons Father Santos had taught me. I looked at Father Santos as I finished slowly, “But it’s not just your garden where weeds can grow. Weeds can suck the life out of you.”
Father Santos nodded ever so slightly. “I hope that is not all that you have learned.”
I turned my attention to the old priest now. “Yes, Father Santos, I understand. The things that we hold dear? Well, it doesn’t hurt if they get a new coat of paint every now and then, does it? Paint protects and keeps the rot away.”
“Isabella,” I said. I so wanted to reach out to her and grab her hand, but I could only grab her with my eyes. “I went to your grandfather’s grave to feel with my heart, to think with my soul. To find a lesson and learn it. Your grandparents loved each other. Yes?”
Father Santos finished translating my final words and Isabella responded with a nod. “At the grave of your grandfather, I looked for answers. There’s something I am missing. Some big secret that others know that has not been revealed to me. How do they find peace in their lives? How do they find a way to love for a lifetime?”
In the gathering gloom, I could see moisture in the corner of her eyes. I wanted to scream at her, No. Do not cry for me. Do not feel sad for me. That is not the point here. I could not.
I could only ask her again, “Isabella, how did your grandparents do it? Your grandfather apparently knew the answers to my questions. He died and left a wife who can’t stop grieving for him.” I sighed, closed my eyes, and rubbed my face with my hands. “If the ocean had taken me yesterday, I don’t think Holly would care for long.” I shrugged and sat back. I was done.
When Father Santos finished translating my words, he turned to me. “Señor Rockwell, I could have told you the answer to these questions if you had asked. It is actually rather simple.” Before I could respond, he spoke to Isabella again. When he was done, she nodded and said, “Si, Padre Santos. Si.”
“Señor, Isabella agrees. Here in Santo Cielo, her grandparents, Alberto and Ximena, were happy because each placed the happiness of the other over their own. They have struggled together just like all of us do. Even my wife, bless her, and I had days when we did not speak to each other.
“What Isabella’s grandparents recognized was most important to each was their marriage. Without a strong marriage they would not find happiness. They put everything they had into happiness for each other. Isabella and her husband were happy with the time they had together because they agreed on what was important.
“Ay, maybe it is not the same in America. Maybe it is not even the same in the big cities of Mexico, but here in Santo Cielo, a marriage is more than just a promise. Maybe it is because we don’t have much here and . . . maybe in your world, where there is so much, what should be simple becomes more complex. The only thing,” Father Santos repeated himself emphatically, “the only thing that matters is people. Whether they are taken care of and are happy.”
After talking about Weed Therapy with others, I realize that this may be one of the more “controversial” lessons in the story. Part of the reason is with how I begin the conversation — which always seems to produce a response that nobody else is responsible for your or my happiness. In other words, an individual is solely responsible for their own happiness.
Which I can’t disagree with. However, there is also something to be said for taking some responsibility for the happiness of others who matter to you. I wonder if that even makes sense. As Father Santos says, Alberto and Ximena each placed the happiness of the other above their own. Does that mean that Alberto thought Ximena was responsible for his happiness or that Ximena thought that of Alberto? No. Again, it means Alberto willingly wanted to see Ximena happy and took responsibility to make sure it was so. Ximena had no right to expect Alberto to take responsibility for her happiness, but to have the best marriage possible, he should take responsibility for her happiness without any expectation from her. And vice versa.
Happiness wasn’t just something that Alberto had to find on his own. It wasn’t a state of mind that Ximena occupied by herself. Instead, when they married, they recognized they had a role in that space for the other. Yes, they owned their own happiness, but imagine how much greater that could be if the person you are with, the person you have pledged your life to — the only adult relationship which you voluntarily choose and which you commit to for life — takes an active role in helping you find happiness. To keep it in your life.
I’m a firm believer in the fact that spouses and partners can’t possibly be together constantly. They can’t possibly spend every moment together doing the same things. That, to me, is unhealthy. We are individuals with different likes and dislikes. Different needs and wants. Within the confines of a marriage or committed relationship, maintaining that individuality is important. At the same time, though, there has to be a bridging of the two. A bringing together. An interest. A desire to share in the good things and bad things that individuality brings to the relationship and to life.
I look at it this way. If the partners in a marriage thought and acted on this simple thought every day marriages might last much longer than they do.
What can I do for my XXXXX to bring a smile to his/her face? What can I do to make his/her life happier? Today.
Unfortunately, I think this is the thought that far too many of us bring to our relationships on a daily basis.
What can XXXXX do for me today?
And I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been locked in a spiral of the latter instead of focusing on the former.
Here’s the one final part of this lesson. It can’t possibly work unless both parties in the relationship think and act in a manner consistent with this idea.