Deborah E. Gauthier: The horse and the carriage

Deborah E. Gauthier

"Love and marriage. Love and marriage. Go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell you, brother. You can't have one without the other."

Frank Sinatra

Last Saturday, my husband and I helped my cousin and her husband celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The following day, we congratulated my husband's sister and her husband on their 40th.

Yesterday, my husband and I saluted ourselves - 41 years of marriage - years that, depending on the day, week, month or year, passed frustratingly slow or agonizingly fast.

But pass they did and here we are - two daughters grown, married and living nearby, six grandchildren who think we are wise and wonderful.

I should be writing something sentimental - words that express to my mate the joy and comfort he brings to my life. He is my love.

I am, however, not a sentimental person. I am a practical person, and all I can think about, on this special day, is the second shower forced upon me Tuesday morning when a water line broke under the downstairs bathroom sink.

It started with a quiet pop just as I headed out the door, followed by the sound of rushing water. It ended 10 minutes later with an inch and a half of water on the bathroom and kitchen floor.

I used to know the location of the water shut-off valve in the basement. There are many valves in the basement. None I tried was the right one.

Back upstairs, ankle deep in water and thinking this is the way people get electrocuted, I pulled open the cupboard door beneath the sink and the gushing water struck me full in the face. I fumbled around, face averted from the water, looking for the valve I reasoned should be there. At the same time, I called my husband, already at work, who confirmed my reasoning.

"It's there, Deb," he said, calmly, and it was. I just needed a little muscle to get the stubborn valve to move.

"OK. It's shut off. Things are fine," I said. "I guess I know what I'm doing when I get home," he said.

Before he got home, I did my job, which was to mop up the accidental lake. It took every sheet and towel we own. I even used a stack of T-shirts folded in a basket and ready to be brought upstairs.

Two hours later, the floors dry (on the surface anyway) and shirts, sheets and towels dripping from clothesline, deck rail and deck furniture, I left for work.

By the time I got home, my husband had done his job. The sink was fixed.

We are a team.

He never would have had the patience to mop up gallons and gallons of water. I don't know how to fix water lines. I play my role. My husband plays his. Unfortunately for him, his role is to do the hard stuff.

When our girls were young, we laughed and called those chores "daddy jobs." They're not, of course. I'm as capable of lugging the trash to the curb as he is. I just don't like to do it. I could help shovel snow from the walks and the driveway. I hand him a mug of hot chocolate when he comes in wet and cold to salve my conscience.

When I suggested last year that our vegetable garden would produce better if it were raised, he dutifully brought home cement blocks and loam and created a raised garden. When I suggested this year it should be expanded, he spent hours lining up more cement blocks and lugging wheelbarrows filled with loam to fill the space.

That's not to say I don't do my part. I cook and clean and make sure the bills are paid on time. I shop for groceries and birthdays, I pick up the mail (someday we'll have delivery), and I even shop for his underwear and jeans. I plant the seeds and harvest the vegetables. All the things mentioned above are things he doesn't like to do.

Generally, marriage is romanticized; bubble baths and roses; long walks in the park; intimate talks in front of the fireplace. And sometimes it is that. But as years pass, marriage becomes what it is meant to be - a partnership grounded by love.

And that's romantic enough for me.

Deb Gauthier can be reached at