Some years ago now my step-son and his wife asked me to read a poem at their wedding. I trawled through countless books and really liked A Marriage by Michael Blumenthal. They weren’t keen on it and I didn’t understand why when I loved it so, but I came to realise that it’s not a poem for those setting out on new adventure, it’s a poem for those who have been at the coalface, shoulders bent, sweat running off haggard faces and no water to quench a thirst.
It appealed because it said everything to me about what marriage or any partnership is about, my own, my parents and other couples I knew. It’s not so much about compromise, although that plays a huge part – as does a sense of humour – it’s more about working together as a team, holding each other up, taking turns. We don’t feel energised and enthusiastic all the time, things come to scupper us and make us unsteady and it’s hard to keep your balance – it’s hard to keep holding up that ceiling. Hopefully, we will come to learn that delicate dance of being there for each other in times of need.
We all have our dark moments, life can be tough. I have so many blessings in my life but it hasn’t been without its sorrows – although I do think I’ve got off rather lightly most of the time.
It speaks much more of in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer – and I’ve had all of that. It’s about being there for each other, saying sorry when it’s not your fault, ignoring the harsh words said in pain or fear, remembering the fun times, the simple times, the person you fell in love with. Hopefully, that person is still in there and you will find them again. And until you do it’s your turn to hold up the ceiling until they are strong enough to stand beside you.
I watched my mum and dad work together and love together, as a child, and as an adult. They went through some pretty tough times but they got through them; they argued, they disagreed, they shouted, they didn’t speak – and they cuddled, and they kissed and they were proud of each other. They loved each other so much and they were not afraid of showing it. And they loved us three kids too – and we knew it to our very bones. And when my dad died in 2012 we didn’t have to question that we were loved, or that my dad knew that we loved him. There was no second guessing.
I miss him still, we all do, we always will – my mum especially because they were really good at holding up that ceiling. I hope that you find someone to hold that ceiling up for you too – until it’s your turn to hold it up for them.
I ending up reading it at their Golden Wedding Anniversary. It suited them so well.
You are holding up the ceiling with both arms.
Your arms are tired,
As the day goes on,
It feels as if either your arms
Or the ceiling
Will soon collapse.
Something wonderful happens.
Someone, a man or a woman,
Walks into the room and holds their arms up to the ceiling beside you.
So you finally get to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
The blood flowing back to your fingers and arms,
And when your partner’s arms tire,
You hold up your own to relieve him again.
And it can go on like this for many years
Without the house falling down.