Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What was June 15?

So Sunday, our first day back from a cabin in Wisconsin, we’re in church, our granddaughter, Manessah between us, and Denis passes me a note: “I need to go home now.” I thought it was some kind of joke, then I looked at him. We left in middle of David’s sermon. I drove us home, and he staggered up to bed. Later I found him with unmistakable flu symptoms and possibly some other complication. Who knows. I take his temperature, bring him ice water, and continue playing Monopoly with Manessah. She has an attitude when I refuse to give her $200 after she forgot to pick it up when rounding Go. (I never let a child win because they’re a child. I know some consider this mean.) But her delighted giggle when she bankrupts me after the third time I land on her bristling Pacific Garden sort of justifies my attitude. Monopoly passed the time and made her last day with us not so disappointing with Grandpa sick and all.

It was Father’s Day and I had forgotten. It was also our Fortieth Wedding Anniversary, which we had forgotten. I finally mentioned it to Denis, who sort of moaned, though I don’t know if that was due to regret or delirium. I guess we’re not a family into big parties. Sometimes for a second, I wish we were. Just saying “forty” smacks me. How can that be?! Back in January I said let’s wait until our vacation in September – that will be our big celebration – we’ll go to our friends’ condo in Colorado and we’ll drink red wine and look at each other for a long time and try to fathom the meaning of forty years of wedded-lock. I don’t really know what it means. I used to think of couples married forty years as wizened in body and mind, the undertaker on-call, and living in apartments that smelled of boiled cabbage, but that isn’t exactly our life. Marriage is less and more than I’d imagined.

My first difficult disappointment way back was that he did not make me happy every moment of every day, in fact, I couldn’t believe he called to the worst in me and I gave it. I spent a lot of time, still do, actually, in confession and prayer, confession and prayer, repeat, repeat. I was also shocked that I should feel lonely. Ever. Of course, I was only twenty then and hadn’t read the books. Blame it on that. Over the years after we went to bed, I learned not to mention getting rid of the carpenter ants, which are attacking the back of our house as we lie here. And he’s learned to tolerate my allergic coughing and wheezing with just the slightest rattle of his magazine.

Marriage is more than I imagined. We share a purpose and calling that has made the years both intense and lovely. We’re friends and lovers, but we’re not the same. I’m still learning how healthy it is to be differentiated (he will never like gardening and I will never enjoy list checking) and how good not to be responsible for the mate’s ultimate happiness. In learning a little more of what it means that Jesus is the lover of my soul I find it easier to rest in darkness. He is steadier and more comforting than a man, or a woman. We just aren’t equipped to do what only God can do – love us to redemption. We actually love each other better knowing this.

The thing that caught me on Sunday was that this little illness, this fever, and headache put a constriction in my throat – the what if. What if this is it and he dies. What will I do about our ministry if? Where will I live if? What will I do with myself without him? This is something I don’t want to imagine. The thought of your spouse’s death can be very self-absorbing.

I’ve always believed that in this fallen world marriage is not a given – not for any of us at any time. Statistically, I will likely join my single friends at some point, since women live longer. (I hope they’re around to help teach me to live alone if that should happen.) I’ve been blessed with forty years of God sustaining us through enough to write a book. Who knows, maybe I will.

So to Denis – who is in Baltimore today, having mostly recovered from whatever it was, and is now addressing the General Assembly of the EPC along with our dear friend, Steve Garber – Happy Fortieth Anniversary and may we continue, by God’s grace, with passion for one another for many more years.


Travis said...

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

Reading this made both my day better and life a little less complicated...Thanks Margie!

Kerri said...

...how good not to be responsible for the mate's ultimate happiness." That is so counter-intuitive for how most people view marriage or its purpose. How freeing, though--I don't have the burden of making him ultimately happy, and I don't get shocked and upset when he doesn't fulfill and make me happy. That's Jesus' job; and he does waaay better at it.
Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Margie. And happy 40th anniversary.

jenni said...

I really appreciate your honesty, and your sarcasm - I love it.

"confession and prayer, confession and prayer, repeat, repeat" - since I've been married, I think I confess sins more than I ever did before. Geez.

And thanks for reminding me how healthy it is to be different than our spouse. Most of the time I think my husband is the most wonderful man in the world. Other times, I do think he's from another planet.

annie said...

Thanks so much for posting your thoughts. It's comforting to hear how 'real' marriage is - both more and less than you had anticipated - like many things in life!

I am skittish when I contemplate making a life-long commitment to another person. It's reassuring to see that it can be done, and done well, enjoying and stretching and not having to be the same - as each other or as you were before.

Rebecca said...

This is so beautiful, Margie. Thank you!