Saturday, May 3, 2014

The marriage odds and us

On May 5, my partner in crazy and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage. A few weeks ago I asked our priest if he would be willing to bless our marriage. He was happy to oblige (I think)… my husband found out about it once I had the go-ahead. I knew he would agree, but knowing things like that is also part of our makeup in our relationship. Maybe that’s why this past Sunday, when our priest said, “What God has brought together (again), let no one put asunder,” I had to laugh a little to myself. I’m sure God occasionally looks down at us and thinks – This works for you?

I’d like to share a piece I had originally written for a contest and have since added on to (they wanted it in 450 words or less – I don’t say anything in less than 450 words). Bear in mind that when I originally wrote this we were in the throes of winter in Maine.

By the way, I didn’t win the contest. My personal reward –a huge smile and a nod in agreement from the guy who stuck around all this time after I let him read it – was even better.


My husband enters the kitchen where I am cleaning green beans, kisses me, and asks if I need any help. At my request he feeds the pets before he makes his way into the living room. Within seconds the grating voice of SpongeBob SquarePants slithers into the kitchen as I prep dinner.

He knows I can’t stand SpongeBob. He doesn’t watch it to annoy me. That’s just an added benefit, evidenced by his snicker when I emit an unmistakable groan. He could sit there for hours and quote several episodes. I’m not sure I could identify SpongeBob in a lineup.

In May we will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. A humorous aside to that might be, ‘Twenty-seven of the happiest years of our lives.’ That’s not far from the truth.

Three years. Ten percent. The approximate sum of all periods spent in upheaval, anger, and - most draining - emotional detachment, in the history of our marriage.

At first, when annoyances started to become issues, we felt almost incomplete. At some point talking became “talking at” with neither of us listening. Toward what seemed destined to be the end, our marriage had become metaphorically widowed.

Hours of individual or couples counseling cannot resurrect abandoned feelings. Tears of a child who misses Daddy during a trial separation, breaking down over losing the battle with a broken clothes dryer, fear of what happens next – none of it will drive you to cross that chasm of despondency. Unless, even after you’ve sworn you feel absolutely nothing, there is one tiny shred of emotion buried under it all.

There was.

Over a year of marital resuscitation and slow healing had passed when I came across an email I never sent to him, deserted in my drafts. As I sat there reading, my own apathy startled me into tears. It was the only time I can recall writing anything that was, in essence, empty.

We were the lucky ones, in the long run choosing to do more with our marriage than just survive it. There was a lot of work ahead of us. There will always be work in a marriage, as in any partnership. And I know full well that not all relationships are meant to recover from the fall. Blessedly, something pulled us back from teetering on the edge of that precipice of defeat. By the grace of God we rediscovered what made Us work.

For instance, there is our competitive camaraderie in deciphering personalized license plates. I used to believe I ruled in this category but I will admit he has sharpened his skills… clearly taking advantage of the fact that I’m driving most mornings and have to concentrate on the road.

He accepts and has even contributed to my obsession with drinking from matching coffee mugs in the morning. One of my favorites is a pair from Disney with seagulls in a Finding Nemo theme, with the word Mine plastered all over it. If our kids realized the “oh, baby” personal significance of each matching mug set they would probably tell us to get a room.

I miss carpooling with him when we don’t, even if I don’t like his radio stations (usually we find a compromise, as long as we don’t mess with each other’s presets). It’s our time to catch up on things we forget to tell each other in the 30 seconds it takes to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen.

It is not perfect. He is always late. I… may have forgotten to pick him up after work once or twice.

Dinner and SpongeBob over, he heads outside to battle the snow and clean cars off from the most recent storm.  When he trudges back inside he approaches with a sinister, singsong, “Come heeere,” brushing frozen fingers against my warm cheek. My face registers shock, then retaliation, as he bolts down the hall, chuckling.

And I think to myself, how good this is, how complete, to simply feel.

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