Ankle-deep in marriage

My wife and I cringe as we tiptoe onto the first step of our swimming pool. We’re up to our ankles, and that’s where we’ll stand for some time, because it’s scientifically proven that cold water is way colder than it used to be.

It’s just the two of us at the pool, which is rare, but getting less and less rare as the children grow up. In a few years, it will be just the two of us all the time. What will that be like?

The sun has gone behind the neighbour’s tree, casting the pool in shadow, which is taking away what little incentive we had. Every time I swim now, I think, “What if the shock is so great I have a heart attack?” We used to have a thermometer in the pool, but it really made no difference; there are only two temperatures: cold and too cold.

I whip off my T-shirt outside for the first time since September 2014, and I turn to Deb. “I blind you with my chest!”

“Oh my God, look at that,” she says. She’s not looking at my chest but my shoulder. “That’s a long one.”

I look down and see a hair growing where no hair has any business growing. Rogue hairs. The middle-age scourge. I hate them. I pinch it between my fingers. “Don’t pluck it! Gross!” Deb says. I pluck it. This ain’t our first date.

My moles are all there on display too. I was mostly mole-free when we started going out. Deb had no idea what she was getting into, which is why it’s so important to look at your future spouse’s parents, because therein lie clues as to whom you will be sleeping with in 25 years.

Deb has just purchased a new bathing suit but is wearing her old one-piece because she can’t bear to part with it. The elastic is gone on it. But then, the elastic is gone on a lot of things these days.

“We’ll go on three,” I say. “One…”

“No, I’ll go when I’m ready,” says Deb.

“We’ll go together.”

“It’s not up to you.”

We don’t go. We’re standing so close, I can see the texture of Deb’s skin, the freckles, and, yes, the wrinkles. It’s not an insult. Four kids? She’s earned them. I can see the individual hairs of her eyebrows, so blonde they’re almost white. Or are they grey? Either way, it’s all real. There’s no makeup. There’s never been makeup, except on very rare occasions. “Makeup Mom” has always intrigued the children, almost as much as my freakishly long arm hairs.

A few days from now, Deb and I will be walking, and I’ll say to her, half teasing, mostly sincere, “You look pretty good for a woman about to turn X.” Deb will stop and look at me. “I’m turning X-1.” “But you were born in 196X… oh, right.”

Good at compliments, bad at math. It’s a gaff Deb won’t forget for days, maybe years. My wife: she doesn’t wear makeup and she remembers things.

But right now, we’re still contemplating getting wet.

The sun moves past the neighbour’s tree, opening a patch of light at the far side of the pool. “Look!” I say. “An oasis!” I step onto the rim of the pool and scamper over to the spot. I sit on the edge with my legs in the water, the sun hitting my pasty, moley chest.

“I’m glistening! I’m sparkling like a Twilight vampire!”

Deb shakes her head at me, on the verge of an eye-roll.

We’ve been together for 28 years, married close to 25. That’s more than half our lives. It’s not always easy. No marriage is. Sometimes marriage is like this swimming pool, taking up so much room in the yard, yet we often forget it’s even there. It requires a ton of work just to maintain it, prevent things from getting too murky, but it gets used less and less every year. Sometimes we wonder, why keep it going at all?

But then we find ourselves together, on the verge of diving, not a whole lot different from when we were young and smooth-skinned; we’re still beautiful (well, one of us at least), and all those years of earned wrinkles add up to this moment. And I think, is there anyone else I’d rather be ankle-deep in freezing water with? Half our lives. As the saying goes, that’s a whole lot of water backwashed through the filter. What happens next? What will it be like?

“Are you ready?” I ask.

“I’m ready.”

“OK: one… two… THREE!”

Early 1988 - the hair years

Early 1988 – the hair years

Circa 2000 - the unfortunate goatee

Circa 2000 – the unfortunate goatee

2015 - with two out of four

2015 – with two out of four

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Ankle-deep in marriage

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Ah yes, if we’re going to get unruly eyebrows and lined faces, it’s best to do it with someone who loves us, stray hairs and all. Congrats on the marriage longevity. And also for having a pool. I’m kind of jealous about that one. 😉

  2. Lynn says:

    I love this post Ross. Longevity in a marriage is a testament to the two people in it. There is good & bad when we are partnered with someone for so much of our lives, seeing the best of ourselves as well as the no so great! Keeping it real my friend…good on you!

    P.S. Although your wife feigned disgust at the said hair being plucked, she was most likely secretly glad you did!

  3. Paul says:

    Awesome sequence of photos Ross. I too am jealous of the pool – just not sure what you are doing with one in SE Quebec where there are 10 months of winter and two months of hard sledding. Ha! Mind, it would make a great skating rink. Bwahaha!

    I had a 12 year relationship with a woman (I called her my “wife”even though we were not married) and when we split, I was amazed at how deep the feelings were. It was the right thing to do, but even so, it took years for me to straighten out all the attending feelings. There is a depth in a long term relationship that we are not even consciously aware of – until it is no longer there. It seems that we link together and communicate on deeper levels without even being aware that we do so. The surface may remain somewhat the same – ankle deep – but the relationship grows deeper underneath year after year. Much like icebergs – the majority is below the waterline – as long as you don’t become the Titanic, you’re good. Hey, I used to truck into the outports of Newfoundland and saw some spectacular icebergs – their website has a powerful presentation on icebergs at

    And furry moles – I thought that I was the only one growing those – Ha!

    You’re getting wiser Ross, despite the physical evidence to the contrary. 😀

  4. pinklightsabre says:

    So how about that new photo on your masthead, or whatever it’s called? Love it. Looks like you’re trying to relieve yourself and make an exhibition of yourself at the same time. Go figure. I also love the photos of you and Deb and the family, thanks for sharing. I don’t get the shoulder hairs though, you must have buffed them out. And the scene of the two of you at the pool, dare I say poignant. Congratulations, water is scary.

  5. We’re coming up on 3 years. It feels like forever, but probably only because I’ve known him all my adult life and have been married to him for most of it.

    I love hearing about marriages that have lasted. Thanks for sharing about yours 😀

  6. Liz Hott says:

    Ross, this is one of your best. And I don’t know if it’s allergies or it’s dusty in here but suddenly my eyes are all misty.

  7. artscotti says:

    We, my wife and I, have been very, very lucky to part with 3 boys and 1 girl, who among them gave us 6 grandchildren over the past 67 years. You’re catching up to us proportionately. Good luck!

    I’m sure you don’t mean the implication of tacking on ” … but it gets used less and less every year. Sometimes we wonder, why keep it going at all?” to the previous part. Or am I being to literal south of the border?

  8. jpankovitch says:

    I love hearing about relationships that last a long time. The great thing about them is that by this time, at least there is no drowning or sinking involved, or holding onto logs, just swimming. Martha and the Muffins have that song: ‘Swimming.’ I hear it in my mind’s ears right now. 🙂

  9. Ben Cullen says:

    Congrats on the quarter century Ross and also to your spouse who must be an exceptional lady to have made it this far with you . In a few months we hit fifty years so you still have a bit of a run to catch the old folks on the hill in Antigonish. The pool comparison is great and with relationships, despite the added effort to maintain, the rewards of the union are more appreciated each day

  10. Judy says:

    We just celebrated 25 years married and 31 together. We renewed our vows in Scotland , along with an amazing trip. Could we really afford it? No- we
    did it anyway.
    Anything worth having, makes the challenges ok. Never easy but I cannot imagine anyone else to finish this path we are on but my husband.
    And a nod to the pool- ours is gone this year and a hot tub in place.
    Warmer, mainly for two but room to share and very comfortable to get into- less surprises- kind of like 25 years together.

  11. Cole says:

    You guys look real hip and cool in that 1988 photo. Great to see such a good story about a long-lasting relationship, and congrats, of course. At age 21, when things seem so hectic and inconclusive, it’s inspiring to read stories like this one that give a young guy hope for the future. Thanks for posting 🙂

  12. Dina Honour says:

    Ross, this was great. I’ve used the phrase ankle-deep to describe the joy I feel in my middle age and this brings it to a whole different level. Sometimes I turn and look at my husband over on the other side of the couch, both of us on our laptops, and I have this moment of blinding thanks that we can simply sit and be with one another and be happy in that. Not all the time, but there are times when that is all you need. To have the body of the person you love on the other side of the couch.

  13. Melanie Cutting says:

    You lucked out, Ross. Deb is clearly a keeper; four kids later and 28 years later, that is a fortunate thing! (I guess I could have said “plucked out” in that first sentence…)

  14. Jennie says:

    Thanks for the smile Ross! I didn’t realize you were so dear hearted!! Love it, lucky wife and family! XoxJennie

  15. ksbeth says:

    i absolutely l vote this, ross what a tribute to love and marriage and acceptance, moles and all –

  16. How did you manage to maintain cold swimming pool water? My folks in Iowa can’t go near theirs because the thermometer keeps vacillating between Hell, No and Poach. They have to hurry outside every morning to rescue the dog paddling squirrels and voles before they become pot stickers.

    And what the hell did you feed the tall one, Miracle Gro? He’s gonna be arrested for interrupting air traffic over his college.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Just because I live in southern Canada doesn’t mean it’s south. “Bracing” is the best word to describe water at its most approachable.
      I’m the shortest of the men in my family, and Deb’s brothers are tall. My son was a basketball fanatic even when he was short, so this all works out nicely.

      • I’m jealous as hell of any “cold” anything right now. It’s been so unseasonably hot in Portland, Oregon, that I’ve been mentally redesigning bras in my head to accommodate ice packs. Something about push up bras makes me think this could happen.

        Well, it’s your own fault for wasting all your creative energy on writing instead of growing. That’ll learn ya. Try to mentally refocus any extra energy towards metaphors and similes and away from body hair.

  17. There are no unfortunate goatees. Fill in the rest. Who’s that tall drink of water on the far left? How do you account for that? I’m always afraid if I pluck a long hair my arm will fall off. 28 years is a long time. Got any tips?

    Late to the show because I’m visiting my fam in Ohio. If my brother tell me that Trump is finally injecting some truth into the discussion one more time, I’m going to smack him with the slab of ribs smoking just a few feet away from where I’m typing this. Family. Feh.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Where to begin? That’s child #3. I have two tall ones, a short one and a player to be named later. His uncles on both sides are all tall. My sister, on the other hand, is a shrimp. James is a basketball player, so he drew the right straw in that regard.
      Tips? Keep making meals.
      Your brother is confusing “truth” with “goading oversimplification.”

  18. rawraavis says:

    This made my heart ache, in a good way. It also made me really curious about how moles are made… Research time. 🙂

  19. Aww, that’s sweet, Ross. We just celebrated 10 years in May, so we’re in the very beginning stages of “things going downhill” physically. There’s nobody else in the world I know better though. Makes life pretty amazing…grey hairs and wrinkles be damned! 🙂

  20. pointlessboob says:

    I realize I’ve come late to this pool party, (I just stumbled across your blog because I was searching for drinking tips*) but I just wanted to say… Lovely post and lovely family. Well done. (On the long marriage as well as the writing.) My husband of 26 years has some wild arm hairs as well. All part of his charm.

    *Sooo… do you recommend umbrella drinks by the pool, or do you stick with the classic: Beer? TIA. I know it’s obvious I’m not a teen, given the length of my marriage, but in my defense, I married young and I still require adult supervision.

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