Being There

Our youngest on the Shelby Street Bridge in our hometown, Nashville TN

Our youngest on the Shelby Street Bridge in our hometown, Nashville TN

If I could paraphrase the goal in one phrase it would be this: to get where we are going together.

We had a succinct beginning on December 16, 1989, but nothing since then was predicted.  We couldn’t see Columbia, SC via Williamsburg, KY through Crawford, TX from the altar in Nashville, TN.  We couldn’t see emergency c-sections and umbilical cords knotted and wrapped around baby’s neck.  Couldn’t see graduate schools and career disappointments.  Couldn’t see arguments epic. Couldn’t see a hole in a neck cut open to save life.  Couldn’t’ see dehydrated faith and long stares into nothingness.  Couldn’t see a borrowed house. Couldn’t see old friends leaving and new friends arriving.  Couldn’t see Anglican.  Couldn’t see trying this hard.

And we couldn’t see how satisfying the view would be when all the hard mixes with all the good and we notice ourselves lovingly paying attention to each other because it would suck to be alone on this veranda.

“Will you keep blogging now that the year of Tired Dating is over?”

Probably.  Maybe.  We’ll see.

But, this blog was never the goal.  Alykev.com was merely a delivery system.  “Tired Dating” was an artistic label we attached to our married life entering our 23rd year together.

We captured our domain, set up the blog and managed the process. Amazed by clicks, views and visitors in the thousands, we originally thought only stray family members would happen by.  This has been fun, a good outlet, and an opportunity to communicate some marital authenticity that is evidently needed in a world with scarcely little.

But, this blog was never the goal.

The goal was, and is, something that cannot be tracked by WordPress analytics.

On many days I absolutely don’t understand why Aly thinks what she thinks.  And she says the same about me.  We aren’t trying to figure each other out.  Anymore.  Maybe we are trying to accept who the other is and just keep moving, not knowing where, but doing so together.

That’s what we said we would do.  Get there together.

Wherever that may be.

Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from our front door, Columbia SC

Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from our front door, Columbia SC

so much more than affordable.

It’s late.  Past eleven.  Everyone else is asleep, the last school night before Christmas break.  I am still up, writing, and waiting for the college girl to come home.  She just called.  “Hey dad, I’ll be home at 11:30.”  A gift without the need of unwrapping.

Last night Aly and I celebrated our twenty-third year and one day of marriage.  Sunday was too full to work in a tired date. Aly began the day on a Sunday School panel seated by our priest.  Aly is a School Psychologist, a job title until last Friday largely unknown in the national vernacular, and we would all rather it had stayed that way.  The Sabbath day ended with a youth group Christmas Party chaperoned by me, because, YOUTH is the funnest gig going at church, and I like it when church is fun.  Teenagers angling for the best White Elephant gift had never appeared so sacred.  They were all six years old once.  Thank God they made it this far.  Nothing is promised.

So against the best advice of Dave Ramsey, we went out on Monday night.  Not that he has anything against Monday, but he has built a career on debt free dining.  We went anyway, not as a riot against financial peace, but rather because we would have been sorry if we didn’t.

And forgive the comparison, but I thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s turn of the phrase “Cheap Grace vs. Costly Grace.”  Again, no disrespect intended, but these twenty-three years and a day have cost us something.  The conscious choices we have made were not the sum total of decisions for the sake of ease and financial gain. To not celebrate would be to disregard the value of the pile of moments that have gotten us to here.  It’s been work.  We still haven’t made it to the easy part.  And what is the fun of celebrating something that requires neither sweat of brow nor toil of hands?  “And David said to the owner of the threshing floor, ‘we will not offer a sacrifice which costs us nothing.’”

As I left for work this morning Aly told me she discovered a leak beneath our bathroom sink. I was immediately taken to the words of Jesus incarnate in the one called Erma Bombeck:  Worry is like a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.

I exhaled worry and disgust for a moment.  Just add it to the list of required repairs.  Dammit!  And then I inhaled grace.  Grace to splurge on dinner.  Grace to see a solid marriage being built one repair after another.  And Grace to look back at this year of tired dates to see a Divine blueprint for a good marriage.  Maintenance required.

So there is a bucket beneath the p-trap, and a fan drying out the cabinet floor.

And I had lobster last night, she the Cobia.  And with wine, the meal was 134 dollars.  “Eat that Ramsey!”

Sucks for the Lobster, but it was goooood for the Anniversary couple.

Sucks for the Lobster, but it was goooood for the Anniversary couple.

Beach Couple

Someday that will be us...hopefully

April 2012   Hunting Island, SC                    While trying to capture the essence of a late afternoon at the shore when the sea meets the sky through the sun’s long shadows, I saw this couple in the bottom of the camera frame.  They looked to be at least two decades older than me, and even though they were bit players in the scenery that opened before me, I fixated on their stroll at the waters edge.  I don’t know their story.  I can only assume their relationship.  But the beach has always been a destination that upon arrival fans my imagination.

I think they are dawning upon their fourth or fifth decade of marriage, and judging by their attire, they are not at the beach to tan.  They have stopped at Hunting Island for a night to camp before continuing to Jacksonville in time to see their two grandkids for Easter.  They have never really been a couple of great means.  Decades ago when their kids were small they planned family vacations around tents and campers because it was the most economical way to see the country.  But now, its their preferred accommodation, not because they can’t afford nice hotel environs in their retirement, but because the smell of pine and salt air remind them of their salad days, when their children were small enough to innocently receive the brilliance of a family dinner around a Coleman stove followed by a walk on the beach in time to see pinks and oranges mix with blues and greens forming a day inching toward its night.

They have weathered a few surgeries between the two, and they could both stand to lose a few pounds, but that has been a constant battle that they are now tired of fighting.   They take vitamins, but they still eat the cheesecake when offered. They have been in debt and out of debt and back again, and wasted way too much breath on arguments about money and in-laws and sex and how to correctly load a dishwasher.  He still goes behind her and abruptly nests the bowls and plates in the bottom rack, and she lets him because it makes him happy even in his frustration.

They have a faith, and it is not bound by attendance.  Don’t get me wrong, they were at one time heavy lifters in their parish, and they still attend, but it long ago ceased being about appearance and perfunctory duty.  In this senior season their faith is bound by simplicity.  They like it like that, and they from time to time wonder why they couldn’t feel this way about God when they were younger, and busier.  They don’t care much about being right anymore, and they listen to music now.

So that is who I think they are, or maybe who I hope Aly and I will become. Honestly, they don’t look like they did on their wedding day, and it is foolish to think anyone with their life history would. But they have something. Something I want.  Something I think is attainable, even within reach from where we currently reside at year twenty-three.  They have it.  And “it” is that hard fought victory tested by time and trials and oh so many unmarked trails they have joyfully and sadly wound their life around. But don’t ask me to put a name on it, or a description beyond what I have already attempted.  A good marriage is hard to qualify with a universal definition, but I’ll borrow that famous phrase from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when attempting to describe pornography.  Words often fail an apt description of a good marriage, “but I know it when I see it.”

He looks up the beach and sees a Pelican diving into the surf to catch a Pelican supper.  She is content to watch the Blue Symphony in front of her.  The sun is warm on their backs.  They aren’t tired.  They are mature.  And in the very next instant, he grabs her hand at the same moment she is reaching for his.  “Lets go eat supper.”

And they do.  And it is good.  Good Friday.