Copyright © 1998 David C. Hay


IX. Epilogue

On Monday, I had to go back to work, as though life was normal. I'm sorry, but after the two months I had just spent, life wasn't normal. My whole world had been turned upside down by the things I had seen and experienced.
Meanwhile my
New York studio apartment felt like just another hotel room. Somehow coming back to a box in Manhattan isn't quite what I imagined coming "home" should be like. But I had no other home, and I was quite lost. What does "home" mean, anyway? Both the homes I saw during the trip and the one I remembered from my childhood seemed very far away indeed.
And then there was this girl . . . I couldn't get her out of my mind. I went into a major funk for most of the Autumn. I developed the pictures I had taken in
Warsaw and was reminded yet again of how incredibly beautiful her smile was. I had some dates in New York, but it just wasn't the same. Jola and I wrote to each other a lot.

My Dream . . .

I got a chance to go back to
Warsaw in January. And she was still there! And she was still beautiful and smart and charming and sophisticated and . . . You get the idea. This was getting very difficult. I asked my friend at the American Embassy if by any chance there was a way that she could come to America so we could get better acquainted.
"Well, you could marry her," he said.
Marry?! We’d only known each other for a couple of weeks.  And she lives in
Poland.  Besides, such things could only happen in a dream.
But then I went home and went back into my funk. About a month later I was writing a long chain-of-consciousness letter to a friend in
California and by the end of the letter I realized what I was saying.
So I called her up and proposed. We were married in June.
It was an interesting sensation, being in the frame of mind that says: "You know? The absolutely most logical, most reasonable thing for me to do with my life right now would be to take a month's salary, go to the opposite side of the planet, and marry a girl I've known for three weeks. I mean, what else can I do? I certainly can't live without her."
It was also interesting to be able to witness a Polish wedding – until I realized that I was the groom!

The Bride and Groom

Of course it wasn't until she came to
America that we discovered that we were completely incompatible.
To anyone considering marrying someone you've only known for three weeks, I can only recommend that you pick someone from a completely different culture that you know nothing about. You will never be bored with each other. Her reaction to everything was completely the opposite of what I expected. Not only was she not like me, she wasn't anything like anyone I had ever known. The things she liked. The things she didn't like.
Ok, ok, maybe I was not exactly what she expected, either. I turned out to be a university employee with very little money, living in
Greenwich Village in (how can I put this gently?) a dump. Somehow I was not the glamorous traveler she had imagined.
And the
U.S. was something of a shock to her as well. She is from a society that is fundamentally well-ordered. Family and culture – even more than the autocratic government – provide stability. There is comfort in that.
United States, however, is basically, well, chaotic. Yes, we advertise that people can do whatever they want here. The problem is that they do! Anything at all! This was hard to adjust to.
A couple of years into the marriage, I was talking to a friend of mine who grew up in
I said to him that, you know, it's really challenging to be married to someone whose upbringing, experiences and way of looking at things are completely different from my own.
He sighed and said, yes, he knew exactly what I meant.
He had married a girl from upstate
New York.
As it happens, the differences between Jola and me have simply made life with her more exciting. She has made me check every assumption I've ever made about life – with the effect that I have learned a tremendous amount about both the world and myself in the process. Marriage doesn't get more exciting.
And we do seem to have found something in common. A lot of those things we see differently that I thought were so important – turn out not to be that important after all. Below the surface is the common chord that we both must have recognized when first we met. We've been married for twenty-five years now, raising two children from diapers to college, living everywhere from that crummy New York apartment to a nice house in Houston – and we have never disagreed on anything important.
It looks as though this marriage thing may actually work.
It's still hard to believe that the person I couldn't imagine even speaking to is the one who greets me with a smile now when I come home from work. Indeed, she has turned out to be the very definition of that "home" I was looking for.
And I'm still crazy about her.
(And I find it astounding for that long story to have led to this.)

In The Deluge, the second novel in Henryk Sienkewicz's grand trilogy describing Poland's history in the sixteenth century, Pan Andre and his sweetheart Olenka spend over 1700 pages separated and searching for each other before they are finally reunited and married.

In the epilogue, Sienkiewicz writes:

Envious ill-wishers -- and who doesn't have them? -- complained now and then that [Pan Andre] paid too much attention to his wife's advice. But he was the first to admit that he always listened carefully to everything that she had to say, because there was no mind like hers in the entire country, and no one else could give him such wise and thoughtful counsel.