I recently had the immense pleasure of watching the HBO miniseries John Adams, starring Paul Giammati as the title character and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail Adams. Besides stellar production values and superb casting, the writers I think successfully boiled the story down to its one essential relationship, that of John Adams and his wife. Their marriage on screen is real, passionate, flawed, humorous, and always loving.
The remarks of Thomas Jefferson at a certain juncture in the movie are striking; at one point John Adams introduces his wife to Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson claims he already knows her because of all the counsel and wisdom she passes on to her husband. I think the series shows in fine detail exactly what a wife of the time, and yes, wives of all times and places, ought to be.
As the series unfolds it quickly becomes clear that Abigail is the driving force of her husband's life. She is his inspiration, his counselor, his wife, his lover, mother to his children, and his "dear friend," to borrow a line from the movie (which line, I am sure, is lifted from John's actual writings.) In the end, she is everything to him, and he realizes and rejoices in his dependence on her. The two are nearly inseperable, ironic as that is considering that they were apart for a good deal of their lives. They wrote volumes of letters to each other, the preservation of which gives us a fantastic glimpse into their real lives.
The longer I am married, the more I realize the truth of that striking relationship: that the wife is the life-force and lifeblood of her husband. She is his goad, his lifeline, his comfort, his aid, and his conscience. Without a woman, a man is very little. I marvel sometimes about the things I have accomplished that I know that I would never even have dreamed of doing had I not been married. A wife is a powerful motivation for a man to be something better than just a decent man. For a woman, a man desires to be excellent.
I may be buying a home soon, because of my wife and the family she has helped me to produce. She and my children are the reason I go to work every day, the reason I curb my tongue when I am angry at my boss some days so that I can keep my job, the reason I work to maintain a decent budget and working vehicles and adequate shelter and food. Without my wife, I would feel little need to be excellent; with her around, it's not only a burning desire, it is quite literally a requirement.
It is not Valentine's Day today, my wedding anniversary, or any other particularly special day other than the New Year's weekend. And yet I feel the urgent need to put out a thank you to my wife. With her at the home, I can feel comfortable going anywhere I need to without fear. Her being there is enough reassurance to me that all is well. She is my motivation, my moral compass, my lover, and my best friend. I never had a word of deliberate discouragement from her in my life, nor am I ever likely to. I can only claim the achievement of having chosen my woman well. She has done the rest.
To my wife, I can only really say I love you. You are my soul.
And to all other good wives out there, God bless you. The world would fail to turn properly without you. Don't stop being the good that you are.