Newlywed Love (#55)

April 22, 1970

Good friendsNate and I spent many evenings with our friends Cathy and John, sharing dinners, coffee times late at night, and Saturday morning breakfasts.

Cathy loved to cook, and I was better at baking. So she’d make a casserole or other one-dish dinner, and I’d supply dessert. Nate was happy to make strong coffee, and these simple meals were the catalyst for some memorable times.

We never ran out of things to talk about, and often the topic was theology. Neither Cathy nor John had much interest in church, but they were always ready to chat about the Bible in what amounted to thought-provoking discussions. All 4 of us loved the friendly debates.

Not a day went by that we didn’t check in with each other. But there was one special call I was eagerly awaiting – the one announcing their cat Jeanette was in labor.

Then one Wednesday it came.

Nate was at the law library when I picked up the phone and Cathy said, “Come right over! Jeanette’s having her babies, and the first one has just been born!”

An invitationI dashed off a note for Nate, climbed in our noxious Mustang for the short drive, and walked into Cathy’s living room in time to see kitten #2 arrive. Jeanette didn’t mind us gawking at her as she labored, seemingly without pain. We marveled at how her mid-section balled up in a contraction, but not once did she whimper or meow.

“Apparently animals have it easier than humans,” I said.

We watched baby #3 emerge, and as with the others, Jeanette licked it with such vigor she literally flipped it over and over. The kitten didn’t mind at all.

Though their eyes were closed, each one belly-crawled straight to their mama’s mid-section where warm milk was waiting. This same three-step process happened with all of them: birth, bath, and chow.

Kitten #4 completed the family, and once they were all nestled together with a sleepy Jeanette, Cathy, John, and I celebrated with Diet Rite Colas.

New baby.Nate, who chose to study rather than observe the birthing process, had warned me about bonding with the kitties. “You probably shouldn’t give them names or anything like that,” he had said. After all, he was a dog person, and we’d already agreed our first choice for a pet would be a puppy.

When I got home, he stopped working long enough to listen attentively to my blow-by-blow account of the evening. “It was amazing!” I said. “And those kittens are sooo adorable! You’ll just have to get over to see them.”

“And,” I added, “all 4 of them are going to need good homes.”

“The life of every living thing is in [the Lord’s] hand.” (Job 12:10)

Newlywed Love (#54)

April 19, 1970

The school year was rushing to a close, which was bittersweet for Linda, Judy, and I. Our 80-mile round trip commute had amounted to 8 hours of chat-time each week, and somewhere along the way we had become fast friends. Linda and I, sharing a lunch hour, had even found a nearby park where springy weather beckoned.

Lunch breakSitting (or lying) on a sheet, we’d munch on water-packed tuna with crackers while soaking up the sunshine. Never mind that our quiet spot was next to an interstate overpass. To us it was a mini-vacation in the middle of a teaching day.

One evening we three couples gathered at our apartment for a fondue dinner. In the course of the evening, Linda and Ron, Judy and Bill each shared plans for the big changes coming after the school year ended. As we talked about these uncertainties, one of the girls said, “Sometimes my head hurts just thinking about it all.”

Nate and I shot a glance at each other. “Your head hurts?” he said. “You mean like a headache?”

Judy and BillWithin a few minutes we learned that all three of us were experiencing the same regular headaches. Fascinated by this discovery, we talked further and figured out they only came on school days, never weekends.

(Left: Judy and Bill)

“I wonder if we’re allergic to something at school?” I said. “Like paint? Or mold?”

Although the headaches occurred only on weekdays, it wasn’t all weekdays. That eliminated the allergy theory. But we agreed they seemed to come in waves, several days at a time, followed by several days without them.

Linda and RonAfter swapping more stories and recalling dates, we concluded the headaches came only during the weeks I drove. And there was God’s answer for question #1 when we’d asked what was causing them. Answer? Our “cool” Mustang.

(Right: Linda and Ron)

We decided on a test. Nate and I would swap cars the next week, and I would drive the carpool in his VW. He would take the Mustang to campus, a much shorter commute.

At the end of the week we knew we were right – no Mustang, no headaches.

Nate took the car to an auto shop, explaining the problem while we kept our fingers crossed that it would be something simple and cheap.

Before long the mechanic called. “I found your problem,” he said. “There’s exhaust leaking directly into the car. Your wives were experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Nate and I felt terrible, promising our friends the Mustang would be completely repaired before any further commutes.

But once it was fixed and I resumed driving it, the headaches returned. In great frustration Nate took it back to the shop. The mechanic made another repair, but that one failed too — along with a third. Finally Nate promised our discouraged friends that the Mustang would never again make the run to Danville.

It would be hard telling Dad of our misfortune, especially since we hadn’t yet paid him back for his loan to buy the Mustang. But the hard truth was, we were back in the car-shopping business. And that was God’s answer to question #2 when we’d asked what needed to be done.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you…. things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Newlywed Love (#53)

April 14, 1970

Nate hadn’t had a migraine for quite a while, a wonderful reality. Tension over his studies and the long research papers he was writing had ratcheted up his stress to an all-time high, yet he remained headache-free. “Maybe all these weeks of marriage have helped you,” I said, hoping that was the case.

Both of us were happy with the way things were going between us. Though marriage had brought some surprises, virtually all of them were good. One night at dinner we decided to list everything we’d learned about each other since the wedding, positive or negative.

The stereoMost were silly things: we both thought broccoli was the best vegetable; neither liked rock music; both had red as a favorite color; both liked to read the Bible every day; both were born in August of 1945; both loved sex; both had Swedish heritage; and both liked to play a new record over and over on my old stereo set.

After dinner that night I wrote about our table-talk in my journal:

The only things we don’t have in common are, he likes Cheerios and I hate them; he likes a big fluffy pillow, and I like a flat one.

Journal

I also wrote:

I have never been more steadily happy and optimistic in my life. When I consider our marriage thus far, I am pleased pink. Not any area has been a disappointment. Actually, all areas have become better, more meaningful, more dear than I’d ever anticipated.

There was only one cloud on the horizon. Now I began having headaches. They weren’t migraines and didn’t involve blinding pain or vomiting, but they were frequent, sometimes daily. Each morning I left for work headache-free. But by the time I came home, the throbbing forehead pain was usually back.

Doing dishesNate was concerned, running and doing for me in an effort to make things better. When I came in, he insisted I lie on the couch for a pre-dinner nap, gently taking off my shoes. He brought aspirin, cool water, a snack. He did the dishes and all the cleaning.

We wondered if I was eating something that was causing a reaction or if maybe the headaches were stress-induced by my upcoming Board of Ed interview in Danville. It was true that I was worried about my lack of teacher certification, hoping by asking for a school transfer I wasn’t drawing fresh attention to my weak status. But I had never experienced headaches like these, so frequent and unrelenting.

Although Nate was anxious about my teaching status too (along with many other things), each afternoon he set his issues aside and made a valiant effort to soothe my misery with uplifting words.

We began praying about the headaches, asking the Lord two questions: What was causing them? And what could be done about them? Within a few days God had given us both answers.

“The Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)