After the big rains, a prodigious paint bulge in the vaulted ceiling plus rain gutters filled with shingle grit prompted a roof inspection, and revealed the need for a new roof. A herd of elephants, it seemed, started tromping overhead at 6:00 a.m., shoveling the 25-year-old shingles to the ground and driveway dumpster below. Somehow Dad managed to sleep through the racket—not Mom and me. The crew covered the curtilage with tarps, protecting the bushes and shrubs, and catching shingles and nails. The sun heated the tarps to such a degree that they burnt to brown the tops of every bush—Dad cut off the dead tops with his electric hedge trimmer. Mom and Dad instructed the roofers remove the old, ineffectual attic vents and fan, which they replaced with a ridgeline vent that looks like thicker shingles. The job was done in a single long day. The vent requires cutting an inch or two in the ridgeline plywood—the vent would not work without it. I poked my head into the attic to verify the cut was there—it was. Not thinking to wear a mask, my throat scratched for hours with insulation dust. Years before, Dad had installed a heat cable to prevent ice buildup on the eves. The roofers tore off and threw away the heat cable with the old shingles, except for two downspout heating elements left dangling from their outlets. The roofing company manager said he would have a new cable installed before Dad paid the bill. I was worried about the company taking advantage of my elderly parents, but the cost was in line with what the neighbors paid for their new roof. Now we can get the paint bubble repaired. Mom and Dad are proud of their home and have worked hard to keep it in excellent condition. They have faced life together in this home, and overcome. Here they have gathered their posterity to celebrate and mourn and strengthen. Sometimes, in the evening, we dawdle around to admire the beautiful yard. Sometimes we sit in the driveway watching the sun set and waving at the neighbors walking by with their dogs. Sometimes we sit on the back patio and stare at the imposing Wasatch mountains, where the mountain maple and gambel oak leaves are turning red. And we listen to the crimson-headed finches sing.
I have been thinking about marriage, that it is perhaps the most challenging of all human relationships. There is so much at stake, from our personal happiness, our financial security, our sense of place and purpose in the world, to our having a posterity to love and be loved by. Marriage is at once difficult and instructional. Marriage requires consecration and sacrifice, a constant negotiation toward a healthy and fluid balance of power, a vigilance for the welfare of another over the self, and a give-all commitment by both partners to the covenantal promise. I have been thinking that no relationship will teach us more about how to be human, and how to be divine. In marriage is the likelihood of experiencing life’s greatest pains of spirit and mind, and the possibility of life’s greatest joys, and very probably both. I think marriage generally works either to wonderful or to catastrophic effect. I have observed many successful and failed marriages, but none so carefully as Mom’s and Dad’s marriage, now in its 60th year. They shoulder every burden together. They discuss every problem and plan and posterity. They cry and plan and laugh and laugh. They are not two identical halves, by any means, but two congruent complementary components forming an entity complete. Dad does most of the talking, and Mom all the needlepoint. Dad calls “Lucille” throughout the day, telling her his every thought and impression. Mom at times snaps in exasperation, then rebounds with affectionate pats on his hand. Though my own marriage experience cannot emulate theirs, still I feel proud of my parents for sticking with it, for keeping the covenant, for showing the way. For my own part, the continuing opportunity is to keep my covenant with God, with my children, and with the broader family, and to lead a purposeful, contributing life. That is sufficient.