Ol' Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. The Voice. Frank Sinatra was known by all these names and more. He was arguably the greatest crooner ever, with a career that spanned parts of seven decades. He did it all: starred in movies, won awards, hung out with presidents and mobsters. Although he wasn't loved by all, and his personal life and relationships were sometimes shady, Sinatra could sing those bobby soxers right out of their bobby sox. He was the embodiment of "cool" for generations.
For me, Sinatra's greatest contribution to the world was a single song that he didn't even write. "The Way You Look Tonight" was originally performed by Fred Astaire as "Lucky" Garnett in the film Swing Time in 1936, singing to Ginger Rogers' character, Penny Carroll. At a moment in which she's not feeling very beautiful, Lucky is telling Penny through the song that to him, she's always beautiful, that he'll always love her just the way she is.
This poignant scene and song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but it's Sinatra's version that is the best known, his voice that made it a timeless love song. It's also the song that played as I danced with my beautiful bride for the first time as husband and wife at our wedding reception, eight years ago today. For me, the song has meshed with the memory to create one of those rare moments of perfect harmony. You probably have a few memories like that. Priceless, aren't they?
Earlier that day, we had the honor of having my father, a pastor and accomplished Used Diaper Salesman in his own right, marry us, and in his message, he made a critical distinction. He painted the picture of marriage as a covenant, not just a contract. Contracts can be broken or modified. Each party to a contract will agree to put on their half of a set of handcuffs but put a key in their back pockets just in case the arrangement ceases to suit them one day. A covenant, however, is unbreakable. When you make a covenant with someone, you're agreeing to cuff yourself to that person and throw every copy of that key in the ocean. It can't be taken lightly, because come what may, you're stuck with that person. You may now insert your lewd handcuff joke here.
My beautiful wife and I made a covenant that day. "For better or for worse" and the rest of the usual wedding day prose can become cliche, but there's really no better way to put it because, frankly, it's not always better. Sometimes, it's worse. Sometimes, you just don't like each other. Sometimes, you hurt each other on purpose. Sometimes, you screw up royally and have to beg for forgiveness on your knees. Sometimes, you're gassy, and God help you then.
Equally cliche is the ever-popular bible passage from 1 Corinthians 13 which is read at so many weddings, the one that goes "Love is patient, love is kind..." Ever tried to actually live that out? It's not for the faint of heart. Like raising kids or any other worthwhile endeavor, marriage takes a boatload of work, but consider this: once you've weathered storms and gone through valleys with someone who didn't leave when the reality didn't meet the ideal, and then held hands and looked back at those times and at each other, you will inevitably say "Wow, it was worth it." Because inevitably, it is.
And now here we are, eight years, three kids, 7,403 gray hairs (give or take) and about as many used diapers later, still imperfect but still perfect for each other, and still no handcuff keys in sight. Right about now, you may be choking on all the cheese I'm serving up, and that's okay. The truth is that I'm a pretty sub-par husband sometimes, so I have to make a conscious effort to keep up with all this stuff. And further, I don't really care if you think I'm weird for taking my marriage seriously. I actually do love my wife that much. Why should that be odd?
So when my wife asks me if a dress looks good on her (one of the top five most loaded questions of all time), I answer, "It's YOU that make the dress look good, babe." For this response, I score between fifty and one hundred points. Yes!
But that's not why I say it. I say it because it's true. I still see the glowing girl in the flowing white dress, while Ol' Blue Eyes sings.