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Keeping in Touch

Story by Ballyfin woman Frances Harney featured on The Ray D'Arcy radio show on RTÉ Radio 1 on his 'Page from your Life' competition

Keeping in Touch

I’m fiddling with the tuning dial trying to reconnect with RTÉ Radio 1 and a Richard Ford interview.

“Bloody thing keeps sliding out of tune,” I complain, more to myself than Liam.

Suddenly the ancient transistor surges into clarity, “A marriage only survives if you can keep the conversation going,” the writer declares authoritatively.

My reclining husband rouses into voice, “What a load of rubbish!” I wasn’t sure if he was referring to this eminent author or the actual radio set.

“Everyone’s an expert on everything these days. Who wants a ‘surviving marriage’ anyway? Does he mean a ‘living marriage’?”

I was about to answer but he had already drawn his own conclusion.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, words only serve to confuse understanding!” Liam has never been a big conversationalist.

The transmission fades to an unintelligible whirr.

I feel him smiling beneath the discarded T-shirt he has placed over his face. I click the dial, and we lapse into a lazy silence.

We are lying semi-naked in ‘The Den’, Liam in his ill-fitting boxers and me in my mismatched bra and knickers. We are lying in the sun, together apart. This summer practice is now in its thirty-eight year. With closed eyes, we bathe in the warmth, sheltered in our ‘sanctum sanctorum’.

Our cadenced breathing attunes to nature’s own voices, humming, buzzing, chirping, singing, translucent in harmony.

I drift on sounds of grazing cattle in nearby fields. Snippets of conversations carry on memory’s wavelengths – my mother’s voice – “Do you think she’ll marry him?” My father’s tones - resonant and decisive.

“They’re a total mismatch, him and his motorbikes, her and her books. He’s a towny, she’s a country girl. I don’t even know if he goes to mass. You’ll have to talk to her.”

The petal touch of Liam’s hand on mine draws me back to the present – skin on skin – and I reawaken. His gentleness talks as our fingers intertwine, reaffirming his promise ‘to take my hand’.

We stretch palm to palm reciprocating tenderness – ‘I take thee’.

He rhythmically strokes the moist folds to my finger-tips turning my dial, megahertz spinning – ‘to love and to cherish’.

His thumb caresses my palm with perfect frequency. I cup it and thrill at its firmness within my soft embrace – ‘to have and to hold’.

Our hands pulsating in the most ancient of all languages copulate in scintillating communion. My heart bursts into full bloom – ‘for all of our lives’.

No words to confuse understanding as these two hands fit one into the other, perfectly matched, each bathing in the warmth of the other, totally satisfied.

These hands, snug in their snuggery, have held each other through births and deaths, disappointments and joys, sickness and health, good times and bad.

If marriage survives on conversation, it lives on the language of the touch of love.

No need for fine-tuning.

The reception is strong with conversations that will last a lifetime.

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