Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

Balancing Act

My dearest wife,

Thought it would be important to write this memory down — it is one that has helped define our two decades together.

I don’t remember the exact date of that church outing to Pulau Ubin, but it was very early in our relationship. We couldn’t have been older than seventeen.

We had rented tandem bicycles to ride around Pulau Ubin. In those days, the bicycles were nowhere as fancy as the ones today. The bikes were a little rusty, the tires a little misaligned, and you could count on them squeaking to their own rhythm as the group of us rode down the path from the bike shop near the jetty. We didn’t obsess so much about equipment in those days. The tandem we rode on did not have any functioning gears, and the two black gear levers on the handlebars were perpetually stuck.

I couldn’t care less. The fact that we were on the same bicycle in front of God and everyone at church left me a little giddy with exhilaration. Boy-girl relationships, between teenagers no less, were still sort of taboo during those times. There were a number of us on bicycles, many exploring Ubin for the first time.

We came to the foot of a very steep slope and the bunch of us were either too lazy or too stupid to get off our bikes, opting instead to power these rusty frames we were sitting on up that slope through sheer obstinacy. And so we huffed and we puffed, and what seemed like a small slope grew into a mental Mount Everest. Our little group starting falling out en masse, and with more than halfway to go, only two tandems were still battling it out with Father Gravity.

I turned my head back to find out if you wanted to stop, and you managed to huff an “I’m ok, keep going”. We put every last ounce of willpower into the singular goal of keeping our feet off the ground, one downward stroke of the pedal at a time. I stood on the pedals, leaned forward and pushed on with all my body weight.

The girl on the other tandem tapped out, and the couple hit their brakes and got off. We were now the only bike still trying, with a third left to go.

We kept our eyes down, focused on the road and kept pushing on until we made the top.

I was so very, very proud of you; proud that I had in you a partner who didn’t hold anything back, and put in everything so that we’d overcome as a team. I felt no feeling of personal accomplishment whatsoever: it had been overshadowed by the euphoria that came with the confirmation in my heart that I had chosen someone as special as you to be my partner for life.

And in the last 20 years I have had that privilege to experience it over and over again. Whether in housework or taking care of the children, it is a blessing to know that if I go all out, you’d do the same. There is no need to calculate who’s doing more, or who’s holding back. It is a most precious assurance to have.

Caleb said the other day, “The two of you are always fighting!” We were a little shocked and wondered if the children saw something we didn’t. “You’re always fighting over who picks Anne up from school.” Anne chimed in, “You always fight to make sure the other person gets to rest”. We laughed. It was true.

My sweetest wife, I hope these will be the fights we have for the rest of our lives together. To be able to protect and care for you has been the greatest honour of my life, and God willing, I intend to always do my best. I’m able to go way out on a limb, only because I know that you’d do the same.