Chapter 63: Sunday Morning
Sunday mornings. Tim likes them. Okay, he likes Saturday mornings better, because they don’t have anything scheduled on Saturday mornings, but Sunday mornings with a slow, easy, wake-up-whenever vibe, followed usually by sex and breakfast out, are awfully good too.
Granted, Mass usually comes after breakfast, and that’s not his favorite thing ever. They make it about two or three times a month, and sometimes when work interferes in too many weekends in a row, end up at Wednesday night Mass instead of Sunday morning.
Tim doesn’t resent going to Mass. He meant it when he told Abby that being there for the things that are important to her was something he was going to do. It’s just not his favorite thing. Mostly he treats it as a combination of a chance to people watch and just think. An hour or so a week where he can just run his book or whatever niggling bits of whatever case they’re working on through his mind is a good thing, so he takes advantage of it. Sure it’s not as comfortable as doing it at home in his jammies, (he doesn’t sleep in them anymore, but they’re still comfy for lounging) but it’s still good.
They don’t exactly fit into a tidy group within the St. Sebastian’s demographics. There are couples their age, but they tend toward married with multiple children. There are unmarried couples, but they tend to be younger or much older. He’s spotted a few engagement rings, which he figures is the group they most readily fit into, but like with the rest of the unmarried couples, they tend to be in their twenties, and some of them are barely out of high school.
So he has noticed they get the occasional curious glance. Though how much of that is Abby being Abby and him being him—Usually in a suit, and yeah, Sister Rosita says casual is okay, but it feels weird for him to be there in jeans.—and how much is the fact that they are clearly together, clearly lovers, and very clearly not wearing wedding rings, he doesn’t know.
He’s been going since Christmas. Which is long enough to get to know, at least well enough to nod and chat for a moment, each of the four priest assigned to St. Sebastian’s. Round about New Year’s Father John—Who he actually rather likes. The man is very pleasantly mellow with a nicely dry sense of humor.—came to chat with him. He understood the point of the first conversation. Abby really is part of this church; it’s part of her extended family, and John was giving him a very laid back version of ‘you’ve brought a new boyfriend home to meet the parents,’ wanting to know who he was, how he fit with Abby, what his intentions were, and when that wrapped up he started of a short lecture on the value of receiving instruction in the Catholic faith which Tim stopped short by saying he had been confirmed back in ‘85.
Which then started the why-don’t-you-take-communion, everyone-is-welcome conversation.
Which then started the current situation where every six weeks or so one of the priests drifts over to him to chat with him about it.
So, as Mass wraps up and they’re heading toward the exit of St. Sebastian’s and Father Peter wanders over to say hi, he knows what’s coming next. Peter will casually nudge him away from Abby and the rest of the congregation for a little chat.
It’ll be polite and gentle. No hard sale tactics here, just a nice little reminder that they’re always here for him should he feel the need to talk or pray.
But he figures with as close to dead as he was last month, if he hadn’t felt the need for faith then, it was remarkably unlikely to just show up now.
So, he’s preparing his usual polite brush off, when Father Peter throws him for something of a loop.
“I was wondering if you and Abby had given any thought to marrying.”
He’s giving the Priest a wary look. “Yes.”
“Good, good. It sends the wrong message when a couple like you, so clearly in love,” though he gets the sense that what Peter really means is so clearly sleeping together, “don’t marry.”
“The wrong message? Seriously?” If this was anyone else, he probably would have answered with “I’m getting the ring made as we speak, and intend to be engaged by the end of the month,” but that approach just hit him wrong. It was too close to too many arguments with his dad. “Anyone who’s here often enough to have noticed how ‘in love’ we are, is also here enough to notice that I come two-three times a month entirely because it matters to Abby. If you aren’t blind, you’ve noticed I don’t take Communion, so the fact that I’m here at all should speak pretty loudly about my intentions. And if messages matter, that one should be loud and clear.”
“It is, but there’s more than just a message here...” And Peter gets going on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of the Sacrament, and well, Tim’s sure he’s not doing it on purpose, but he manages to hit just about all of his arguing-with-dad-buttons.
Tim takes a breath and calms himself down. He hasn’t spent hours arguing with Peter, and it’s not his fault that he’s got unpleasant history with authority figures trying to make him jump through hoops for symbolic but empty gestures. And it’s not even that he disagrees with the main thrust of what Peter is saying, he believes wholeheartedly in the value of binding your life to your woman’s and being there for the long run, he just doesn’t see how a Priest saying words over them magically makes them any more committed than they already are. He also doesn’t think words make a commitment. If words alone could do it, sitting in the bathroom, promising to come home was the moment it happened. But it’s not the words, it’s the actual coming home, day after day, year after year, that does it.
He’s not sure how to, or if he really wants to, explain that his dad and mom said the words, and had the Priest bless them, but it didn’t matter because his dad didn’t come home. So he decides to stay on the general side of the idea, rather than specific to him.
When Peter winds down on the beauty of a true commitment and the need for that, Tim says, “You’ve officiated what, hundreds of weddings?”
“Okay. How many divorces? How many?” and Tim looks over at a few couples who by their body language are clearly still together out of spite. “A third? A half?”
Father Peter thinks about it, and Tim appreciates the fact that the man is trying to be honest with him. “Between a quarter and a third.”
Tim nods. “Once upon a time, just declaring yourself married was enough. You spoke your intent to be husband and wife, to live together for the rest of your life, and that did it.” Peter appears ready to interrupt, but catches Tim’s look, and doesn’t. “You see that tattoo on her arm?” Abby’s laughing with her nuns. She sees him and smiles. Tim smiles back and realizes that with Abby ‘tattoo on her arm’ is not a terrifically specific statement, she’s got a ton of tattoos on her arms, and the little pink sundress she’s wearing shows all of them off. “The black and red one on her right arm?”
“That’s my mark. I designed it. It’s on my arm, too. That’ll be on both of us for the rest of our days. Married isn’t, or at least, shouldn’t, be just about one day of I-dos. It’s not the words, it’s the living. That mark, that’s the first promise binding my life to hers. And one day, soon, I will make that promise to her again and seal it with a garnet and diamonds. I’ll re-make that promise again, and seal it with a my name and kiss. I’ll remake it every time we make a baby, and when I’m there for each one of those children’s first breaths. I will live that promise every day for the rest of my life. And if Jesus doesn’t like whatever order we end up doing that in, I honestly could not care less. We’ll do it however we do it. And if I don’t care what Jesus has to say about that, you can imagine how little I care about what anyone else does, either.”
Peter thinks about that. Tim gets the idea that he rarely has this much trouble with potential grooms who aren’t doing things the way they’re supposed to. Of course, potential grooms who are here as often as he is are usually significantly more receptive to the whole God wants you to do this a certain way sort of message as well.
Peter stares at Tim, looking like he might respect Tim’s answer, but it’s not good enough. Finally, he says, “If you really feel that way, why aren’t you married?”
“I think a better question is, in what way aren’t we married?”
“Legally and religiously. In the eyes of man and God, you’re just shacking up. If something happens to you, what about her, and those children you may have?”
“We’ve been each other’s medical proxy since 2006.” When Gibbs left, Abby had switched from him to Tim, and with his mom in Texas, and his sister only at Waverly during the school year, it made a whole lot of sense to have someone to act as Next of Kin for him nearby as well. So they set it up. “My will, life insurance, and pension are also set so that if something happens to me, her and any children we may have are taken care of. She’s the second name on all of my bank accounts, and has access to my retirement accounts. So, if something happens to me, she’ll be devastated, but financially, even if she didn’t have a better paying job than I do, she’ll be fine.”
Peter didn’t appear to be expecting that answer, and the look of wary respect grows, but he’s not satisfied. “That’s not enough. It’s not about the cash. You can say it to each other all you want, you can make any promise you like and chose your own symbols, but until you stand before everyone who has ever mattered to you and swear on your life and hers that you will be there until you die, all you’re doing is playing.”
Tim shrugs. He remembers Ducky saying more or less the same thing at Palmer’s wedding, and though he doesn’t agree with it, he respects it none-the-less. “Engagement ring is supposed to be done in the next few weeks.”
“Then I expect to see both of you here for pre-marital counseling sometime in November.”
Tim looks a little startled at that. Peter smiles. “Six one hour-long sessions. It’s required to get married here. And I’m going to assume, since she’s been a member for thirteen years, that Abby wants to get married here.”
“We haven’t spoken about it specifically, but probably.”
Father Peter smiled. “Good.”