Many days, my husband and I are truly like ships passing in the night—though I swore years ago, when I was at least a decade younger and a lifetime dumber, that it would never be. “He would come in from working the night shift, eat, shower, then get some sleep to do it all over again. Then, just about the time he’d be waking up, it would be my turn to leave for work—ships passing,” she said. By she, I’m referring to the great grandmother of a little boy I used to provide care for; she’d tell me stories as I sat with the child in their house.
Typically, I loved to hear her speak and tell me things about how she grew up and of when she was a much younger girl: this story was different. It put me in the mind of how married couples become strangers, or roomates living in the same house. At that time, I was a newly-wed and fresh in love, so I hoped her reality wouldn’t prove true for me.
Nevertheless, as fate would have it, life has a way of giving you a type of understanding that you never asked for, but that it knows you desperately need.
For the first six years of our marriage, Des and I worked “in house”. I assisted him in running a group home for troubled boys and with an apartment right off of the common living area, our commute to “work” was less than a full ten steps. To say we were together nearly 24 hours a day would not be a stretch by any means, but it was a closeness that was good. Already comfortable in each other’s company and being many miles from our family and friends, we had to rely on each other for everything; it created an impenetrable bond between us as lovers and as friends, but it wasn’t long before everything changed.
After completing his Master’s degree, we moved to another city and into our own home—The dynamic switched: while I stayed back and tended to the kids, for the first time since we’d been married, Des left the house for work. Moreover, in order to continue on that path, he worked long hours and always kept multiple jobs. Now, to relay what that has looked like in laymen’s terms—extremely long nights and many husband free days—the very epitome of what Great Grandma had said to me years earlier.
What’s shocking however–what I wouldn’t have believed even if she had tried to explain it, is how much closeness can be felt even between passing ships; how in those brief moments when their paths get wonderfully parallel, two people can appreciate so much. Maybe it’s because its dark and in darkness you must be on ultra alert—noticing and experiencing with more than just your eyes, but with your mind and your heart. It could also be because the pass by goes quickly—you know every moment you don’t savour is one that you’ll miss!
It’s been nearly 16 years since I heard Granny’s dreadful story and nearly a decade since Des and I have been playing the “passing ship” game; one of the ways we work around it is by having “our things”. On those rare occasions when the two of us are free at the same time, we sneak away and do something with just us two—usually they’re simple tasks, like taking a walk, catching up on a television series we love, or laying up on a weekend morning until past noon! When I tell you, those simple gestures are pure magic, I mean that every bit—we look forward to and relish those moments, because they’re at the same time rare and inevitably fleeting. Just like people, they come only to enhance us, but with no illusions that they’ll stay.
One day, if I’m fortunate enough to grow old, I’ll be sitting in Great Granny’s shoes: then, possibly to some young girl, or maybe my daughters, I’ll be the one talking marriage and love—and just like she did, I’ll liken the both of them to ships. Then I’ll laugh, but only on the inside, because I know what I know; that if they’re lucky they too will be Grannies, and priceless lessons are passed on this way!