The other night, my wife and I had a few minutes of quiet together. These tranquil periods are rare occasions in our busy lives. Currently, we have two teen-age girls and all the hustle and bustle of teen-age events. Michael is just beginning his teens, but more and more he needs to be driven somewhere of an evening. (Our community is several miles from everything, and the parents have to do the chauffeuring). In addition, we have six youngsters in grade school, and three pre-school tots, including two-month-old Gerard.
We blissfully recall the days when the children retired by seven, and the parents had the evenings to them-selves. Now, exhaustion usually over-takes my wife by the time the children retire. As for me, I suffered a series of paralysing strokes during the past eight years, so my work day is spent in a one-room studio that my friends built for me about fifty feet from the house.
The baby had just finished his bottle and was asleep. Ellen’s measles had cleared and Joe, Vincent and Rita, the only ones who had not yet had the measles, showed no symptoms, as yet. Mike and Paul had promised to put their light out by nine-thirty. The two high school girls were in bed and asleep, early for a change. Suddenly, for a moment, everything was under control, so we sat down to a cup of coffee.
We reminisced for a moment about our seventeen years of marriage. I asked Dorothy, “What is the happiest moment we have ever had.” She thought a while and then said, “When I think it over, I can’t recall any moment happier than right now!”?
After thinking about it, I came to the same conclusion. This is a fact that younger, less experienced couples do not realise. Moments of love are never forgotten by those who remain faithful. These moments of love grow richer in the memory. And, of course, moments of love cover a much larger area of experiences for us longer-married folk.
For instance, a very poignant memory of love, for me, is one memory I have of an occasion at the hospital when I watched Dorothy enter an elevator going to the delivery room. I was hit so hard by the fact that she was courageously (though shakingly) going to an ordeal that I felt was as much mine as hers-but she had to suffer it, alone.
I have often heard it said that a woman never knows that kind of powerful affection that exists between brothers-in-arms. Long-married couples, I am sure, retain all the romantic ardour of young love plus the affection of companions at arms. We have been through so much. Look at the scars! And, our banners are still flying! This is love, for life!
Ours, we think, is a successful marriage. How do we account for success when all the trials and troubles we go through are the very things that other people avoid as pitfalls? I suppose that at the root of happiness is a mystery.
Through a process of elimination, we always arrive at the conclusion that it is nothing but God’s helping grace. We are living a Sacrament. All the other things that seem to explain our peace in the midst of trouble, are more an effect than a cause.
Certainly a husband’s love matures as he sees his wife constantly attentive to the endless demands of the children, rising in a cold bedroom to early-morning emergencies. His love is no longer a fairy-thing, floating in the mirages of courtship. This is a woman with courage and a capacity for sacrifice. She is not stoic, no creature of iron will and vigorous constitution. She is a woman sensitive to pain, yet beyond pain when someone else needs attention. I have not the slightest doubt that come hell or high water, Dot will be right beside me, doing a masterful job. She may weep, but she will work through her tears and she will smile when a smile is needed.
There is a strength far beyond our own that mans the helm of our family ship. Each joy and sorrow has a place in the divine scheme of things. Take one iota of trouble away, and the balance would be lost, the happiness less poignant, the peace less complete. This is Christian marriage, a stark, real, practical and full adventure; a thing of days, nights, years and eternity. The price we pay is merely to re-iterate the original vow, “I will,” saying over and over again “Yes” to God and “Yes” to each other.