A Letter To Colin

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Colin and Katherine are off and biking towards future adventures in their marriage!

November 30, 2017

Dear Colin,

I enjoyed your wedding last weekend; thank you for inviting me.

I remember getting married on June 21st, 2003 — how stressful it was to be the center of so much attention, the strange confluence of the intensely personal moment of marrying another person and to do so in front of so many of your closest friends and family. You go out of your way to invite people to your wedding, and then they show up to witness it.

“Witness,” I like that word. All these persons in the church showed up to witness you and Katherine promise on November 25th, 2017 to “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” We all heard you make that promise. Later at the reception, your father and I stood there talking to you — both he and I were also made these same wedding vows in the Catholic Church and are married still, and standing there at the wedding reception we welcomed you to the community of married men. What have you gotten into? The term “married man” is almost a pejorative to most Americans. But I remember once reading from this elderly Chinese guy that a boy is not yet a man until he gets married. That might be going too far, but life is different now.

But is it better?

A complicated question.

First of all, I would reject this idea that to be a married man is to be on a leash or to be somehow neutered. You loved to travel and adventure when you were single; Katherine can join you in future adventures, and in the change you have gained a traveling companion (as well as so much else). I thought it was a perfect and very personal touch to launch yourselves away from the church on a two-seater bike. Bravo!

To be honest, to be married or not is not necessarily a huge change, as I see it. I had been single for many years before I met my wife at 33 years of age, became engaged at 35, and married at 36. I know you also had drank deeply from the well of singledom. This fact makes it easier to leave the “freedom” of being single behind, and to embrace committing to one person in marriage. This commitment, in my experience, leads to an even greater freedom than being single does. But, married or not, life continues more or less the same — but married with children is a huge difference, but I will put off talking about that for a bit.

I have to tell you, Colin: During your wedding, and in thinking about it for months, I could not help being impressed. To be so ready to get married at the age of only 26 — this shows a courage and depth of character that I did not have when I was that age. To have the juice to know so clearly what you want and where you are going, and to stand up and make it happen — many never get the strength of character to take such definitive and purposeful action to have the life and family they want. I think your parents also married young? The acorn does not fall from the tree? I approve. Especially when it relates to such quality persons such as the O’Neills.

You and Katherine are off to honeymoon and adventure in the Patagonia region of South America next week. Enjoy! Adult married life awaits you when you return to San Diego. Katherine’s new job, you finishing your graduate degree, finally living together — the first stages of your married life together. Although it is a cliche that married life can be “difficult,” it is true. I heard an old married couple claim they had been married for 37 years, 32 of which had been wonderful (and the other not so much) — and that is a pretty good ratio. At times you love your spouse, even when for months at a time you might not like them much. It is a partnership: you talk out problems with your spouse. You don’t give up on them when they are struggling. You are a team. Even when your spouse at times becomes unloveable, you still love them. You are your spouse’s first and foremost cheerleader, beyond lover or roommate. Things will get better. Patience. Love might start off as feeling that lives in the heart, but in the long-term it is more a decision of the head. Again, you “love” your spouse, even when you don’t like them at any specific moment. The same is true about your sisters and parents, no? They are family. You don’t give up on them.

My gut tells me you and Katherine will do fine here. Enough said.

But I would return to the idea of children and a family expanded beyond you and Katherine. To children.
You mentioned briefly to me at the reception that children are not in your new family’s immediate future. I understand that. Enjoy just being married for a few years.

But I urge you not put it off too long, Colin.

Why do I say this?

For the same reason that you are Katherine have the guts and depth of character to get married, you would make excellent parents, I strongly suspect. And for the same reason that you make a good couple and are well married in the Catholic Church, your children (I strongly suspect) will be good persons and bring joy to themselves and you. Katherine and Colin are a strong pair and bring courage and adventure to this world; your children would be a concrete manifestation of yourselves, and so much of the good you two have to offer (both individually and together) would be made flesh and spirit by becoming parents.

If you were both the superficial, shallow types that live for accruing money or nights out partying in Las Vegas, then I might hesitate to urge you to become parents. But because you are persons of depth and value, I think you would enjoy parenting.

Now let me be frank. I have found parenting — more so than marriage, more so than monogamy — to be an iron discipline. A harsh taskmaster. An incredible time suck, not to mention money drain. It would be the same for you and Katherine. To become parents means often to put these little persons and their needs and desires before your own. It does change your life. Forever.

But in a good way.

The night before your wedding I was having dinner with a friend who mentioned that he had started drinking alcohol again, after abstaining for months. Why? I asked. “Because I was bored,” he responded matter of factly. So many guys I know get to a point in their lives where they allow risky and dangerous lifestyles to predominate because of ennui with life generally, and a lack of a wife to call them on their bad shit. Children and family help a man to focus the mind on what is most important, and to live up to that best example of the person you want to be. A man lives for more than just himself.

Colin, I imagine you as a relatively youthful father in the surf with your son, teaching him how to get up on the board as the right wave arrives. I imagine you cross country skiing through the snow with a baby slung on your back. I imagine you bringing children into the adventuring life you and Katherine lead, and then they learn to keep up with you. They learn to travel with the pack and to love the adventure. The good times become even better, with added numbers and increased complexity. There are challenges to be overcome. Difficult times follow the good. Your children learn. Your words are helpful, but your actions and example speak louder. You, father of the family, remain anchored by never losing sight of true north anchored to the North Star.

Children are a huge part of marriage, as the Catholic Church teaches and urges. You were a great student in my class — and a great child to your parents, sibling to your sisters, husband to your wife — and maybe greatest of all, a father to your future children.

By all means take some time to settle into married life. Finish graduate school, pursue your career, etc. But don’t wait too long to have children, I urge. You have done so much with your life so far, Colin. Keep the ball rolling. The momentum is on your side.

It only gets better, if more complicated and challenging, from here. But you got this, Colin. “Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:2

Very Truly Yours,
Richard (aka “Mr. Geib”)