“After 25 Years …”

Heather and I have finally caught up with Tevye and Golde. But we figured out Tevye’s question long ago.

If your “Fiddler on the Roof” trivia’s a little rusty, there’s a moment where the lead character Tevye suddenly realizes that after 25 years or marriage, he’s never asked his wife a simple question: “Do you love me?” With their marriage arranged and a pile of daughters to raise, it never had a chance to come up. But as they reach a moment where their lives and world are changing, he realizes that he needs the answer.

Golde resists at first: why  worry about it NOW? But after much musical back-and-forth, she finally confesses that after 25 years of struggling together, something has grown between them. “I suppose I do,” she admits, surprised at her own answer.

“Then I suppose I love you too,” Tevye answers with a smile.

“It doesn’t change a thing,” they sing together, “but even so/After 25 years … it’s nice to know.”

It is, indeed.

We hit our own 25th a few days ago. The one they call silver. That makes it sound pretty and timeless, like jewelry in a safe, doesn’t it?

Well, it has been timeless. But I think Heather would agree that it hasn’t always been pretty.

Our parents like to tease us about having a whirlwind courtship: Heather and I met in November, proposed the next spring and had a three and a half month engagement.  Sometimes when you know, you don’t want to waste time.

That launched the adventure.  And since then, our mutual weirdness has carried us through a lot.

We’ve discovered what it’s like to spend “date nights” in the emergency room, somehow smiling at each other through the latest medical emergency .

We’ve entered parenthood through the back door, becoming guardians for Heather’s developmentally disabled aunt and uncovering new surprises daily.

We’ve weathered the losses that 25 years bring, from elderly grandparents to a too-young cousin.

And yes, we’ve accumulated photographs, marveled over interesting words, delved into each other’s favorite songs and stories, and shared WAY too many terrible puns. (That last one is mostly me, but she swears I’ve corrupted her.)

There’s been stress and strain to be sure. But also joy as well. And bit by bit, it’s added up.

So I guess, like Tevye, I am a little surprised. Not at the love we always knew was there. But at how small 25 years suddenly looks.

Like a mountain range, it’s built of smaller bits, brought together over time. And traveling that 25 years just means navigating the bits. You make it through the next day. And the next. And the next one after that.

That doesn’t have to just describe a marriage. It’s any worthwhile commitment, really. You decide what’s important to you and then treat it that way. Over and over and over again.

Sure, it can be tiring. Every mountain hiker knows that. But if you’ve committed to something good, the journey is worth the effort.

Ours certainly has been.

So happy anniversary, my love. We’ve climbed a lot of peaks together. And somehow, you haven’t pushed me off any of them, no matter how bad the jokes get.

We asked our Tevye question at the start and every day since. Thank you for the answer that’s always been “yes.”

Now, how about a movie night?

I think “Fiddler” is on.

The More Things Change

In 1998, Japan hosted the Olympic Games. The world marveled as humanity’s oldest space traveler launched into the blue. The Colorado Rockies struggled to stay out of the basement, prevented only by the even-worse Arizona Diamondbacks.  

Oh, and a young Colorado couple realized they had no idea what they were doing, but were willing to make a try of it together.

Fast forward 23 years later and …

Hmm.

Did someone give us the script of “Groundhog Day” when we weren’t looking?

OK, I’m teasing a little bit here. Obviously, we’ve seen more than a few shock waves since the days when  Google was new, Facebook was non-existent and masks were mostly for operating rooms and trick-or-treaters.

But after 23 years together – as of July 25 –Heather and I still spend a lot of time feeling like we’re making this up as we go along.

“It’s really only 10 years, right?” Heather teased me the other day. “We’re not counting the days with all the chronic illness stuff, are we?”

Sounds great to me.

It’s a little startling to think about. We’ve seen the larger world deal with Y2K and 9/11, ubiquitous computing and social media, even worldwide pandemic. (All of which have somehow failed to shake “The Bachelor” from the airwaves, by the way.) In our own lives, we’ve left Colorado and returned, become parents of a sort, and carefully learned how to spell scary stuff like “multiple sclerosis,” “ankylosing spondylitis” and “post-journalism career.”

But through all the blessings, scars and lessons … well, it still feels like we’re on day 2. With a world ahead and no idea how we’re going to meet it.

I guess that’s true for all of us, isn’t it?

We like to think we know better. From the first day that someone asks “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we start to build grand plans for the future. It might be a general ambition or a detailed breakdown that looks like Richard Branson’s pre-flight checklist, but we like to think we know where we’re going and that we have some control over how to get there.

And then – life happens. A lot. And then a lot more.

If we’re lucky, we hang on to a piece of what we were expecting. If we’re even luckier, our old dreams give birth to new ones. I never expected to leave newspaper reporting – but I also never expected to be a parent-by-choice to Missy, either.

But a lot of times – scary, tiring times – it can feel a lot like circling the Monopoly board. The territory looks awfully familiar, but you’re not quite sure where you’ll land. (And that $200 for passing Go never seems to materialize.)

At those moments, I’m glad to not be the only piece in the game.

In a world where the changing and the changeless can be equally terrifying, it makes a difference to face it together. To know that even if you’re guessing, one person is guessing along with you.

I don’t know what tomorrow will be. Some days, I’m barely sure what yesterday was. But I know who I’ll be facing it with. And that makes all the difference.

Happy anniversary, hon.

Oh, and if we’re replaying 1998’s greatest hits … do you think we can get a Broncos Super Bowl win out of it?

Just checking.

Moonstruck

Every marriage fits in one of three stages, all defined by your friends. There’s “Awww.” Followed by “Hey, that’s great!” And finally, there’s “Wow.”

Heather and I are now firmly in the “Wow” category.

We reach 20 years on Wednesday. Yes, really. We still haven’t hit the guideline given to us by Grandma Elsie (“After you reach 30 years, the rest is easy”), but other than that, we’ve racked up our share of milestones. Four homes, three cities, two states. We’ve survived ice storms, heat waves, chronic illness, and the delight of moving a piano into a second-floor apartment. We’ve had the amazing joy of seeing our disabled ward Missy come into our lives – or us into hers – and the heart-rending pain of seeing our cousin Melanie leave us too soon.

I’ve shared a lot of that life in these columns. By now, I’ve probably poured out enough words to reach to the moon and back.

Fitting comparison, perhaps.

***

OK, I’m a space nerd. Heather, too. But I swear, we did not deliberately put our wedding day right after “Apollo Season.” Somehow, it still works.

For those who don’t have the dates permanently engraved on their brain, the moon mission known as Apollo 11 launched 49 years ago on July 16, reached the moon on July 20, and then splashed down back on Earth on July 24. It was and remains one of the most transcendently amazing things our species has ever done, an expedition that drew the awe and admiration of millions.

So much could have gone wrong. Some of it did. Total disaster was always a real possibility, as close at hand as the unforgiving vacuum of space. So close that President Nixon even had a speech ready in case the attempt proved fatal and those “who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”

But the triumph, the achievement, put everything else in its shadow. All the stress and the worry that had gone into making it happen are remembered mainly by the participants now, or perhaps by those who deliberately study them. For everyone else, it’s “The Eagle Has Landed.” A beautiful moment, never to be forgotten.

And not a bad model for a marriage.

OK, that sounds a little silly. But consider.

There was a huge amount of planning at the outset that still never felt like enough.

There were vows and promises that sounded grand, but would require massive amounts of work to achieve.

There were minor communications flubs that later became amusing (from Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” to Mission Control’s “Roger, Twank … Tranquility”) and major crises that almost upset everything (such as a difficult landing that took far more fuel to achieve than expected).

There was the eager anticipation of first steps, first words.

And while countless people stood behind them, supported them, made it all possible – the ultimate success or failure would be on the shoulders of the people who made the journey.

A big responsibility in front of the entire Earth. Maybe even a bigger one when just trying to patch your own journey together, day by day by day.

And most of all – for all the ceremony and spectacle, it’s that day-to-day work that’s the most vital. A marriage is not a wedding, anymore than a single television broadcast is a mission. An indelible record, yes. A moment to be celebrated, absolutely.

But it’s the stuff that happens next that makes all the difference.

***

We’ve long since left the moon. Maybe one day we’ll return and relight the fire that once burned so brightly. I hope so, with all my heart.

But in the meantime, our own mission of the heart continues. And despite everything life tries to do to bring us back to Earth, Heather and I are still over the moon.

One small step for a couple. One giant leap for a lifetime.

Showing Our Metal

Today’s not-so-random Rochat thought: I think bronze medalists may have the best of all possible worlds.

Yes, I know we’re nowhere near an Olympics. Stay with me, OK?

Consider. You’re recognized as one of the best in the world. You get your place on the stage. You’re less likely to worry about having just missed the top spot, like a silver medalist might, nor does your life get turned completely upside down the way a gold medalist’s does. (You also don’t get the same endorsement deals, but we’ll go there another day.) It’s accomplishment mixed with celebrity mixed with a certain amount of anonymity.

No, it’s not a bad deal at all.

And this year, maybe it’s just a little appropriate.

On Tuesday, Heather and I celebrate 19 years of marriage. The People With Names For Everything like to call this the bronze anniversary, which amuses me a bit. I mean, these are the same people who decreed that 10-year anniversaries are tin and that 17-year anniversaries get celebrated with furniture, which makes me wonder if the PWNFE needed their basements cleaned out and saw an opportunity.

But even for this crew, bronze is a curious choice.

Is this the anniversary to bask on a Florida beach and turn inviting shades of brown? (Or in my case, not-so-inviting shades of brilliant scarlet.)

Is this the time to join the late, great, Doc Savage, The Man of Bronze, on some hair-raising pulp adventure?

Is it an occasion to join an Ancient Greek re-creationist unit and load ourselves down with well-burnished swords, spears and breastplates?

OK, I know, the boring and mundane answer is that it’s an excuse to contribute to the American economy by purchasing a category of gift with a high material density that will live in the basement or garage forever … except when it mysteriously emerges at night to bruise a careless toe. I get it. (And the accompanying Band-Aids.)

But in all serious – maybe the PWNFE got it right this time.

Maybe, for a long-lived marriage, bronze is exactly the right choice.

I’m going to precede this by warning that I Am Not A Metallurgist, nor do I play one on TV. But I’m just enough of an amateur historian to know that bronze gets kind of an unfair rap when it’s compared to the iron weapons and armor that replaced it.

There’s a myth that iron replaced bronze because it was a clearly superior metal. Not really. While iron has its uses (especially in later eras that would make true steel), ancient bronze was a strong, useful material.

What it wasn’t was a highly available material. The alloy required materials that could be difficult or expensive to get, particularly tin, while iron was widely available. So iron was often cheaper, and soon was ubiquitous.

So. You have something surprisingly strong and beautiful, with a mix of components that aren’t easy to acquire – something that everyone wanted, but that was hard to possess.

If that’s not the definition of a good marriage, than what is?

After 19 years, I think we’ve had one of the great ones. Granted, we haven’t had tried wallpapering a room together yet (the ultimate test) but surviving chronic illness, newspaper schedules, and eight-hour drives with an anxious dog may be a decent substitute. Through it all, we still make a heck of a loving team, one that’s grown even stronger and more exciting since we started taking care of Missy six years ago.

So bring it on. The Games are underway and we’re ready to take the field again.

It’s time to go for the bronze.

Coming of Age

This year, as Heather likes to put it, our marriage is old enough to vote. Or to smoke. Or even to get married itself.

Yes, it’s been 18 years since Heather and I stood in a friend’s garden and said “I do.” Which, honestly, seems impossible. I mean, it was just last week that Heather and I were nervously watching rain clouds and wondering about the wisdom of an outdoor wedding, right? It couldn’t have been 18 years since my hair began popping loose in defiance of everything my sisters could spray on to hold it down?

Hmmm. Come to think of it, there’s not that much hair to spring loose anymore. Which means …

Wow.

Every year, a few more of my friends say “Congratulations!” Every year, a few still jokingly say “That’s it?” Either way, we’ve gone just a little further down the road that turns a good wedding into a great marriage, where, as I’ve often quoted Grandma Elsie, “If you make it through the first 30 years, the rest is easy.”

Easy. That it most certainly has not been. In that span, we’ve moved three and a half times. (Once was Heather coming to join me in Kansas.) We’ve endured floods, hailstorms and chronic illness. We’ve said goodbye to too many and hello to more than a few, while becoming “parents” in a way we never expected as we became guardians to her disabled aunt Missy. We’ve encountered the proverbial richer and poorer, better and worse, in sickness and … well, we’re still kind of getting that last part down.

And somehow, along the way, we laughed and loved and lived enough to send 18 years running by. True fact: 24 hours takes forever to pass, but 18 years goes by in a moment.

True, this isn’t one of the “name” anniversaries that gets commemorated, like the Gold Anniversary or the Silver Anniversary or the 35th Level Pokémon Master Anniversary. But as Heather joked, 18 is one of those numbers that tends to loom pretty large on its own. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how fitting a comparison it is.

When you turn 18, you’ve spent most of your life learning … and realize that you’ve only just started.

When you turn 18, you realize how much you’ve been gifted with … and, if you think about it, how much responsibility has been placed on you.

Eighteen is the age where you can do so much in your own name, from joining the Army to being charged as an adult. It’s a point that grew from “Wow, that’s old” as a little kid to “Wow, that’s tomorrow” as a high school senior.

It’s a point where you suddenly look back on fears and memories alike with a bit of wonder. And, if you’re lucky, with a bit of anticipation as well.

I consider us to be very lucky indeed.

True, nobody’s issuing us a cap and gown tomorrow. (I said we were lucky, right?) But in a real sense, every day has been a new graduation.

So Heather my love, thank you for 18 wonderful and unforgettable years. Our marriage is all grown up now, even if neither of us seems to be.

And if tomorrow, our marriage doesn’t run off and try to buy booze with a fake driver’s license, I think we’ll be doing OK.

Furnishing a Marriage

The stage contains a balcony and literature’s most famous lovers. They seem considerably older than we remember them.

“Romeo, oh, Romeo; wherefore art thou Romeo?”

“Call me but love, Juliet, and I shall be new-baptized. But take this gift of my heart and I never will be Romeo.”

“Oh, Romeo! Dost thou bring me flowers? Diamonds? Silver or gold?”

“Nay, Juliet.”

“Then, what?”

“Behold, I bring thee a 5-piece dinette set with matching hutch. Canst thou give me a hand with the pickup?”

And thus did the happy dagger and the apothecary’s drugs give way to the latest special from Verona’s Furniture Warehouse.

No, I haven’t been taking cold medicine. But thinking too much about anniversaries can certainly make you feel that way.

Heather and I celebrate 17 years of marriage on July 25. It’s been an adventure with a lot of ups and downs – some of them literal, like our 1999 trip to climb the Great Sand Dunes together. We’ve survived Kansas summers, Colorado winters and even life in the newspaper industry.

We’ve also shared a love of trivia. And so one night, I got curious about what sort of anniversary this was. Everyone knows that 25 years is silver, for example, while 50 years is the golden one. But what the heck is seventeen?

I looked it up. Then looked it up again. Then a third time, to be sure.

Furniture.

Yes, really.

No, the list was not prepared by Jake Jabs.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Not that we couldn’t use a new mattress and an additional bookcase, of course. But … furniture? It didn’t quite seem to be the stuff of romantic epics. It was so, well, mature. Mundane. Practical.

Where’s the fun in that?

Then I heard myself and chuckled. Sure, maybe it was tagged at random to fill out a list or because the author had a couch to replace. But In a way, there couldn’t be a more evocative way to demonstrate the difference between a wedding and a marriage.

it’s a difference that sometimes gets glossed over, especially in a country where weddings are a multi-billion dollar industry. Many of us expect our weddings to be an event: fine clothes, a beautiful setting, a band or DJ that knows more than just “Louie, Louie.”

It’s a special day and rightfully so. We try to make it a fun, meaningful celebration, something that will grace photographs and memories with a bit of enchantment.

But even the best events come to an end. The next morning, you wake to find the wedding is over – and that the long road of the marriage is still in front of you.

A good marriage is work. Not the frantic work of trying to assemble details for a moment that will come and go. This is the long haul, where the partnership has to renew itself every day and navigate sometimes difficult waters.

This is about dealing with the daily trials: vomiting dogs, leaking ceilings, mice in the living room, family in the hospital. Sometimes it’s about raising children (or caring for a ward, in our case) and seeing the odder pieces of yourself reflected right back at you. And it’s about not losing sight of each other in the middle of it, even when you’d rather just grab a nap.

There’s still room for romance, even joy. But there’s a practicality mixed with it, one that knows this is still important, even when it isn’t always fun or flashy.

One that has room for furniture as well as diamonds.

Maybe seventeen years is a good time to remember that.

Heather my love, thank you for the love and the fun and the silliness. Thank you for the times we struggled, because we struggled together. Thank you for being with me in the times of frustration and confusion and sheer exhaustion.

Somehow, we’ve done all the grown-up stuff and still love each other. I guess that means we’re doing it right.

Happy anniversary, honey.

Now, tell me again about that table you wanted.

Nonsense and Nonsense Ability

The weekly faceoff between me and my column had just begun. As usual, the battle was closely matched.

“So honey,” I called out to my wife Heather, “what should I write about this week?”

No hesitation.

“Turnips!” she called out.

I laughed, loud and long. After 16 years of marriage, I really should have known better.

The turnips are a running gag that began long before I met Heather. She started making that wisecrack in high school, though she’s no longer clear on why. It may have been due to a random episode of Blackadder or her love of medieval history, where turnips may appear on any random page. It may have even started with her love of  the “Little House on the Prairie” books, which include the deathless words “Carrie loved to eat a raw turnip.”

“I want that tattooed,” she joked. At least, I think she’s joking. With root vegetables, one can never be too sure.

Wherever it came from, it’s been here to stay. Turnips have sneaked onto grocery lists, into text messages and amidst quiet moments in otherwise ordinary conversations. One time, I even called her bluff and brought some home from the store after a grocery run. Heather was surprised, amused and a little perplexed.

In roughly 20 years of turnip jokes, you see, she had never actually used one in a meal.

“I should have had them laminated,” she said.

Weird? You haven’t known us long enough. While turnips may produce (har-har) our best punchlines, it’s far from our only bit of mild insanity. There’s the mandatory sound effect when someone says they’ll be “back like a flash” (psheewwww!), or the back-and-forth razzing about the romantic qualities of Bob Dylan, or singing the names of Heather’s medical conditions. (Yes, if you ever want to enliven the Mozart Requiem, just start singing along with “AN-ky-LOS-ing … SPON-dy-LIT-is!”)

It’s ridiculous. Even silly. And I think it’s why we’ve survived as long as we have.

A lot of things get promised when you enter a marriage: for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for Buffs or Rams, and so on. But I really think that somewhere in the wedding vows needs to be a promise to love each other “in sense and in nonsense.”

Yes, you want to take each other seriously. This is your partner, your love and your best friend, after all. But marriage throws a lot at you, from the life-and-death to the utterly mundane. It’s easy to drown and simply react to the next thing until you’re not one couple, you’re two people with Important Things that all need to be done Right Now.

Silliness is a way of taking the moment back.

It means stepping back and turning life cockeyed for a second, for no other purpose than a moment’s amusement.

It means calling on old memories of odd moments, because the best gags have deep roots.

And it means showing your partner that you still care. That you can reach outside yourself and spend an instant to make them smile, speaking in a language that only the two of you share.

The words may be ridiculous. But getting silly is serious business. “A laugh can be a very powerful thing,” Roger Rabbit once said – and really, if you can’t trust a cartoon rabbit, who can you trust?

OK, maybe that was a bit much even for me. Time to ground myself. To focus. To concentrate on weighty matters and serious things.

Things like … turnips.

Thanks, honey. That’s another one I owe you.

Al In The Family

“Is everything OK?” I asked Heather as she talked on the phone.

She shook her head hard. Reaching for a pad of stickies, she scribbled a quick note.

It said simply AL DIED.

I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

Regular readers may remember Al, the man who married our Grandma Marilyn early this year. He was in his 80s, she her 70s; living proof that love can happen at any age.

Now he was gone.

I tried driving on an errand. On the way home, I made at least four wrong turns.

They never even got an anniversary, I kept thinking. They never even got a Christmas together.

It seemed monstrously unfair.

Two people couldn’t have been better suited for each other than Al and Marilyn. She had the energy, he the quiet strength.  She could draw him out; he could calm her down. It had been one of the great pairings, a perfect fit.

I’d gotten to know him some, while they were dating and after they married. Kind smile, easy laugh, a South Dakota gentleman of the old school. We’d lifted furniture together as they moved from her house to his and gave us some of the excess. I’d listened to some of his family stories; he’d listened to an original song of mine on the piano.

I had played at their wedding and thrilled to the joy on both their faces. A love ready to last a lifetime, however long the lifetime might last.

“I’ve been happier this last year than I was for the entire lifetime before it,” Marilyn told me as we talked.

Thinking back on that, in the midst of a painful, confusing day, I realized I’d been wrong.

They had had their Christmas. Every day, they gave themselves to each other, then woke up to find the gift anew.

They had had their anniversary. Every day had been a celebration, a fresh commitment, a resolve to take that first day and make it even stronger.

The calendar on the wall wouldn’t agree. But the calendar in the heart knew it all along.

Less than a year? Yes.

A small piece of eternity? Yes.

Time enough? Never. It never could be on this earth, not if it were half a century.

Timeless enough? From the first hour of the first day.

It’s easy to get drowned in the “nevers.” We never did this. He’ll never hear that. I’ll never get a chance to say this. On and on, in a downward spiral of depression, each turn causing a little more pain than the last.

Or you can reach to that calendar. Remember the warmth. Recall the love. Not “getting over it,” as the crude phrase would have it, but moving with it, refusing to let the pain of now take away the joy of then.

There’s an Al-shaped hole in all our hearts. There probably always will be. But the hole doesn’t have to stay empty. Not if we don’t let it.

Thank you, Al. For everything. And especially for the light you brought to Marilyn’s life.

A November-December marriage may face its winter all too soon.

But it also means that from its start, the holidays have already begun.

The Luckiest Number

 There aren’t many folks who’ll welcome a 13 into the house.

Our city’s planners didn’t. Why do you think we have Mountain View Avenue?

Garth Brooks didn’t. The man once skipped directly from track 12 to track 14 on a CD, filling the 13th with a few seconds of applause.

Baker’s dozens, skipped hotel floors … the list goes on and on. Call it superstition. Call it tradition. Call it seriously unwanted.

At least, until it reaches my doorstep.

At Chez Rochat, the big 1-3 is more than welcome. Come on in. Make yourself comfortable. Come back anytime.

After all, how many people are going to turn down a 13th wedding anniversary?

That’s right. On July 25, 1998, a skinny young man with hair that would not stay down said “I do” to a kind and beautiful lady and heard her answer back. Well, mostly heard her, over his own hyperventilating.

These days, the hair has shed, the waist has spread, and the breath has reached a more regular rhythm. But the love has remained the same. And with every passing year, I’m reminded just how fortunate we are.

Well, maybe fortunate’s not exactly the word. Every marriage takes a lot of work, ours no less than any. But every time I see a friend blink and congratulate us as though we’d just hit the diamond anniversary, I can’t help feeling there’s been a little bit of luck, too.

I’ve been lucky to find a woman who would stay calm during her husband’s epileptic seizure. Who smiles at his rampant geekery and tolerates his reporter’s schedule. Who hasn’t yet executed him for leaving his tennis shoes in the middle of the living room.

Given her own soapbox, I guess Heather might say the same about a husband who held back her hair when Crohn’s disease turned her stomach upside down, or who greeted her Sailor Moon fixation with an amused grin, or who nodded and said “Yes, dear,” when she adopted a small army of birds to join our parakeet Sharpie. (Yes, the Rochats now have their own air force.)

But luckiest of all has been that we both believe in this. That we understand a marriage is more than just “a wedding and the other stuff.” That there are fun days and hard days, but no days that aren’t worth trying just one more time.

In a society of seven-year itches, maybe that’s the best fortune of all.

On our wedding day, my grandma gave the two of us a bit of advice. “If you can make it past the first 30 years,” she said, smiling, “the rest is easy.”

There’s a long time left to 30. But standing here at 13, it doesn’t look so imposing as it did. Not here at this point, where, as Heather puts it, our marriage feels both brand new and as though it had always been.

Thirteen.

Wow.

Call it what you will. But it’s definitely not a wrong number.

Backup Brain

  It sounds like a tabloid headline: The Internet Ate My Brain!

But that’s more or less what a new study comes down to. It claims that constant exposure to the Net has changed the way we think and especially the way we remember. After all, why bother trying to recall an obscure piece of information if a Google search can find it in five seconds?

“When people expect to have future access to information,” notes the report by Betsy Sparrow, Daniel Wegner and Jenny Liu, “they have lower rates of recall of the information itself, and enhanced recall instead for where to access it.”

Or, as the saying goes, there’s what I know and what I know how to look up. And given the chance, we tend to rely on the second.

And really, that’s not all that new.

Ask any married couple.

You know what I mean. Marriage confers a lot of benefits – a loving partner, a faithful friend, a chance to eat food that doesn’t come out of a colorful cardboard freezer box – but one of the greatest may be that it provides you with a second brain. This is invaluable when your original factory-issued cerebellum breaks down on a matter of crucial importance.

“Hon, what’s the name of the older guy in Sense and Sensibility? You know, the one we really like?”

“Alan Rickman?”

“Thank you.”

My parents are the all-time champs at this. They can keep a volley going for minutes at a time, rifling each other’s minds until they come up with the correct answer – or at least, an answer they can both agree on.

“Isn’t he the guy who was in …”

“No, I know who you’re thinking of. That’s the guy from the movie last week.”

“No, the guy in the movie last week was the one in that comedy, the one with the college student.”

“That wasn’t a guy, that was Emma Thompson.”

“No, the one WITH Emma Thompson.”

“Right, which is the one from …”

Major international summits have involved less discussion.

Really, for most of us, it’s a lot like searching the Net. You know you could find the answer in a book. There’s a good chance the book will be more accurate. But searching the backup brain is convenient. It’s familiar. And it only occasionally results in having to sleep on the couch.

If there’s any danger in the march of technology at all, it’s that we might have even less reason to talk to our spouses than before. As if 24-hour sports channels hadn’t done enough damage.

It sounds a lot like this move I saw once.

You know the one?

It had this guy …