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Reading is fun

by nate
Saturday, August 17, 2002

private celebrations of love

I painted houses for a professional crew as one of my jobs while in college, who didn't? The crew was made up of old timer convicts and drunks as well as a few directionless dropouts. Our boss was a good guy who'd grown up in the business and was doing a steady job of growing it after his father had died and he took the reigns.

Near the end of the first summer our boss, Mike, took his slacker brother David and me to a job that was in an old cottage house just off of Franklin Street. Mike introduced us to the owners and then left us to our work. He usually dropped off his crews and then came back to get us in the afternoon.

The owners were an elderly couple in their early eighties. What struck me most about them was how obviously in love they were with each other. David found out that they had been married since high school! Can you imagine wedded bliss for over sixty years such that you are still lovey-dovey in your eighties?

We got to work and spent the entire morning, half stoned and in awe of this couple's vitality and sense of togetherness which were openly displayed without pretense. We painted the walls in the living room and the ceilings in the living room and hallways as they piddled around the house doing chores together; always laughing and ribbing each other. When we set up our ladders and opened up some sheetrock mud to start patching what looked to be a ragged ceiling in the kitchen we were stopped in our tracks by screeching and shouting from Mrs. Loveydovey.

Immediately her husband joined her in the kitchen. Both were frantically waving their hands and screaming at us to stop. Mike neglected to tell us that it was very important that we not touch the damaged plaster ceiling of the kitchen. Mike was probably thinking about his next job and simply forgot.

David took offense at their histrionics and at Mike's neglect and stomped out, undoubtedly to smoke another doobie. Almost in tears, they carefully explained the state of the kitchen ceiling. Sixty years ago, when their first child was born, a very dear friend gave them their first bottle of fine champagne. When they opened the bottle the cork flew into the ceiling and put a small ding where it impacted the plaster. Rather than get upset at the damage, they got up on a ladder and wrote the date and the occasion of the celebration on the ceiling, creating a tradition in the process.

As I looked up from my vantage point of standing 6' 5” on the kitchen floor it appeared to me that there was an overall dinginess to the entire ceiling, with a concentration of dark gray emanating out from the center of the room. It looked like 60 years of water damage from the floor. Climbing up the ladder to have a closer look I began to make out the details of fine pencil marks that became dates and notes.

There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of them. All dings were documenting joyous events; some momentous, others simply appreciative. There was the birth of all 6 children, 28 grand children, 18 great grand children, high school graduations, college graduations, weddings, engagements, good doctor visits, proposals, interest rates, retirements, and many, many hundreds without occasions noted. I asked what they were and the two octogenarians blushed and kissed each other answering my question: private celebrations of love.

As I commenced to move the ladder into the next room, Mr. Loveydovey stopped me. He wanted to know if I could help them out. He handed me a tattered sheet of paper that looked like an astronomers map. On it were a few dozen points with dates and notes.

These last bottles needed documenting as he had become too frail to safely climb his rickety old ladder. Would I do it? I took the sheet and pencil and bid them “Cheers!” as I climbed the ladder in awe of the power and permanence of true love.

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