By Barb Arland-Fye
Looking out the kitchen window, I saw a robin’s nest perched atop one of two wood posts of my husband Steve’s newly constructed clothes line. Mama robin hunkered in the small nest, protecting her yet-to-be-hatched babies. I laughed, imagining Steve’s expression at seeing another creature interfering with one of his projects.
But it turns out that Steve placed the nest on the post after transferring it from the top of our electric meter box where he found it. Initial thoughts of discarding the nest vanished when Steve spied four eggs inside. Soon, three baby robins hatched. Steve placed a bowl of water on the small storage shed near the clothesline and dug a few worms from the earth as a welcome gift for the new family. Mama robin and Steve accommodate each other while he’s hanging clothes. His thoughtfulness toward the “other” reminds me of my husband’s giving of self, a hallmark of our marriage.
We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on Memorial Day, unfortunately apart because he’s driving a train. “Can’t you tell them you need to be home because it’s our 30th wedding anniversary?” I asked Steve, even though I knew the answer to that question. That’s one of the sacrifices we’ve made in our marriage, accommodating each other’s career choices and schedules — sometimes a little reluctantly, on my part!
Steve doesn’t get excited about celebrating milestones, birthdays or holidays like I do. We negotiate our way through our differences. Sometimes the results are unintentionally humorous, such as when Steve hung a large banner on the railing of our front deck congratulating me for earning my Master of Pastoral Theology degree. I wanted to celebrate, but not quite that ostentatiously.
In his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 6, Pope Francis observed that the sacrament of marriage is a “great act of faith and love, and requires courage to step beyond one’s self.” If we grow in that sacrament, we learn to become more focused on the other — both within the family, which is the domestic church, and the universal church.
When I joined The Catholic Messenger staff as managing editor more than 13 years ago, I remember telling the interview committee that my husband made it possible for me to thrive in my career. We had two sons at home — both of whom needed extra attention, one because of autism. The popular colloquialism, “I’ve got your back,” applied to our relationship then and now. As I lay in a hospital emergency room bed on Valentine’s Day in 2014, scared about what would become of my broken leg, Steve arrived in the room, walked swiftly to my side and held my hand tightly. It wasn’t the Valentine’s Day I anticipated, but one to remember always because of the strength I felt in our marriage bond.
In my mind’s eye, I see Steve sitting in the cab of the locomotive. He’s in his element, having received the OK to drive the freight train at full speed. I’m picturing this while peeking out the window at the robin family. The three baby robins crane their necks and open their beaks wide with every expectation that they will be fed and nurtured. My husband had a part in this beautiful scene of family life I am witnessing. Perhaps that’s one way to celebrate our anniversary.