November 21, 2019

Marriage: What Makes It Work

• By John F. Chisholm •

My daughter’s fiancé and I mounted a hand pump on the well next door.  It was our first major project together.

I think the job would have proceeded smoothly if we’d installed new parts.  We didn’t.  A month ago I salvaged the pump from the metal pile at the recycling center.  The handle had to be repaired, the threads re-cut.  The pivot pins were worn to a rattle.

Corey, my son-in-law-to-be, and I made new seals together.

That proved the most daunting challenge.  I believe the original seals were leather but I can’t be sure.  They were completely missing.  The composite seal I made from layering an old inner tube worked but not for long.  The individual rings broke free, twisting in the pump body, jamming the piston.  It was Corey who located a piece of rubber thick enough to do the job in one piece.  Shaping that into a seal was a saga in its own right.

Finally, following an afternoon of labor, we fitted the resized rubber seal to the pump.

Now stop.  Think about this for a moment.  The pump, once expiring on the scrapheap, had certainly surrendered all hope of ever again pulling water from a well.  Imagine its jubilation when fresh, cold water bubbled through it once more and with the very first piston stroke, too.  Delighted, the pump squeegeed and squawked, pouring crystal-clear, sparkling water onto the ground as first Corey and then I pumped with abandon.

We grinned at each other delightedly and grabbed a couple of high fives.

It was only on my way back home that I reflected on how appropriate our labors had truly been.

That’s because a marriage is a tremendous amount of work.  Sure, I received my certificate at the church on day one, but my right to make that statement came over the next thirty years.  I am qualified.  No question.

Rejuvenating that old pump, making it new, starting it fresh, isn’t the same thing as a marriage.  That’s not my point.  It’s just that shared labor is precisely the tool that works in both cases.

In fact, as far as I know, with marriage it’s the only tool that works.  Having your labors successful only heightens the experience.

I’m not blind.  Absolutely Corey wasn’t working for me.  He was working for Kim.  Of course he loves her, too.

But, from my point of view, making something old new again is the joy of generations.