12 October 2006

I'm Out of Fingers and Toes

It snowed today. Out came the brushes and on came the defroster. Some of the trees have yet to turn (though the big maple in my front yard loves to carpet my lawn) and now there is about an inch of snow.

It will not last. By the weekend it will be gone and seasonable temperatures resume. But I am tiny bit miffed. Tomorrow is my 30th anniversary. Initial notions of taking a weekend off and going back to Chicago where we were married withered under the facts of our chockablock life. We are not party people, at least I am not. And where is the pleasure in throwing a party for yourselves – you clean, cook, entertain, then clean up again afterward? Besides, we have already had two receptions at the house in the last weeks and another to come this Sunday afternoon.

So we settled on a day trip to Chicago, it is only 3 hours away. We are going to spend but a few hours there, including a short visit to the chapel in the church where we were hitched. Of those who were there back then there are only five or six left who can gather and so we will. Many are still alive, I would emphasize, but now scattered to several regions. Being a seminarian at the time, at a small school, there were but a 100 people there, most of them students and faculty. Our parents were there of course, and my siblings. My wife is an only child. But as small as it was, and modest in its ways (we had only a cocktail reception afterward in the school across the street) it was notable in that it included a present and two future seminary presidents, a future bishop, a passel of Ph, D.s and if I read the stars right the next president of my denomination. Hardly the Trilateral Commission, but pretty good for a young man of 23 and his fiancée of almost five years.

So it irks me, in a petty way I am so good at, that our anniversary will be cold and snowy instead of cool and colorful. Not that the universe owes me a favor. Far from it. Of all those most unlikely to succeed wildly, I have defied the odds at every turn. My career as a clergyman has been a steady march up the ladder of status and success. My marriage has had its bumps and mistakes, but they are barely potholes compared to the lives I have seen around me. My sons are healthy, decent, honorable sorts whom I now try to equal in quality of soul and character.

So why does it bother me that tomorrow will not be the perfect day? Because I want to bestow as many blessings as I can on this mate and helpmeet who has now spent more than half her life with me and, unless cruel fate overtakes us, will probably spend the rest of her life with me. I am stunned, amazed, undone by it. Until I realize I have done the same thing.

What a colossal act of faith it is to marry at all, to stay married when the gauze of romance has been blown away by reality, and when the evident demands of old age begin to appear on the horizon. If it were not so common it would be breathtaking.

Isn’t that the way of things though? The most courageous and religious acts are those we commit everyday – marriage, parenthood, friendship. Each of them can wreck the soul, even ruin our lives, but we persist in loving, mating, and trusting despite its actuarial peril.

I have just finished a little book by Matthew Perry – “Population: 485” - that records his experiences in his own small home town after he returns after a long hiatus. What he writes about is this overlooked treasure of human honor in plain places. I commend it to you. I shall never be able to do for my town or family what Perry does, lacking his gift. So my little prayer, if I am really honest is this: Holy One, help me to recognize all the blessings I truly have. And remind me to give a blessing for all those I receive.

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