Having spent last week on a depressed rumination about the aftermath of divorce, I’ll swing back the other way and contemplate the ties that bind.
The impetus for this week’s sermon is a picture from my grandpa’s photo archives, of a moment involving my parents.
(I suggested years ago that I might someday write some blog posts about his photos, in addition to his calendar items. You may see some of that in the next few weeks. Scope creep is my friend, at least during the dog days of summer.)
My folks are in an above-ground pool somewhere in Stamford, Connecticut. It might have belonged to a neighbor of my grandparents’ on Hope Street, though it might also have been my Great-Aunt Mary’s. It matters not.
My mom is relaxing in an inner tube, presumably because she does not want to completely submerge in the water.
My dad, cheerfully ignoring that cue, has just doused her with a splash of pool-water. He appears to be heartily enjoying the moment. Smirking, even.
(His sideburns add to the interpretation. Everything a man does seems to acquire a little extra swagger when sidies like that are involved.)
Oh, you dog, my mom seems to be saying as she recoils from the facewash.
(For those who demand fealty to the calendar: This picture was most likely taken during a family visit to Stamford around the Fourth of July, 1975. Here, I’ll show you proof. Then we’ll move on.)
The picture of my folks in the pool seems, to me, to encapsulate all the things that spouses and life partners do to piss each other off.
Some are unintended. Others are bald-faced and deliberate and totally without shame, like a faceful of chlorinated water.
Some come and go, and are quickly forgotten. Others rankle, no matter how much we try to reason them away, and require things like professional therapy, or a couple nights on the couch, or a good old-fashioned angry have-it-out.
But — at least in some relationships — it all ends up under the bridge somewhere. As it did for my parents, who will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary just about a week from now, pool rudeness notwithstanding.
This is not to say that people who get divorced — or people who stay single — are doing it wrong, or that lengthy relationships are the only definition of success.
It’s just a recognition of the power of forgiveness, and of the mysterious connection that can make people get over all the inconveniences, slights, pranks and wiseassery that human beings can inflict, even on the ones they love most.
I can’t explain it; but I know it when the camera captures it.