Newlywed Love (#80)

July 28-31, 1970

Nate and I were learning that taking on a pet was a bigger commitment than we thought… especially a dog. We were both keen on keeping commitments in general, and part of that was doing the work connected to them. Tossing that to someone else made it their commitment, and that’s what we’d done to Mom and Dad with sweet Baron.

But we tabled those thoughts to tend to more urgent matters: selling the Mustang, finding an economical vehicle, studying hard, and running Nate’s paper route. This job, which began with such promise, had morphed into a disaster. Though Nate had faithfully made his deliveries, never missing a day, he hadn’t made a nickel.

Courier officeAt the end of the first week, his boss told him something he had probably purposely withheld: payment would come only as his customers paid him. At the office he showed Nate how to hand-write the bills on a payment envelope and band them to the papers once a week.

The problem was, virtually none of his customers actually paid. He had to walk up to each house, usually at dinner time when people were home, and plead for the money. It didn’t take long to learn that once a product had been received, a buyer was reluctant to pay for it.

This felt even worse than failing to sell pots and pans. After all, the people on his paper route had already agreed to buy the product. Worst of all, Nate had had to pay up front for all the newspapers, purchasing each bundle before going on his route. He also had to pay for the required rubber bands, and these expenses had up-ended our meager budget.

DollarsOne evening after delivering papers every day for almost 4 weeks, he returned empty from another bill-collecting trip. His frustration had reached the boiling point, and he erupted. “I’m basically giving the gift of a  free Courier subscription to each one of my customers – every week!” He stomped back and forth in his own protest march while venting his anger. “And then they slam doors in my face when I ask them to pay what they owe!”

“Well,” I said, trying to be positive, “you’ve collected $70 so far. At least that’s something.”

“But that went toward paying for papers and rubber bands!” he said. “And my boss is mad, because we’re still in the hole with him.” Nate was right, of course. It was a big mess.

In one last effort to lift his spirits I said, “Well, we may be poor, but at least we’re happy.”

Even as I said it, we both knew it was only half true. But there was one genuinely hopeful development – the Mustang. People were responding to our ad, several had come to see it, and two seemed almost ready to buy. “Maybe we can get a bidding war going over our polluted little car,” I said, hoping Nate would laugh at such an absurdity.

But he didn’t even smile.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Newlywed Love (#79)

July 19-25, 1970

Nate and I were happy to spend some weekend time washing and waxing our sleek, black Mustang with the terrible “bad breath” — hopeful that its handsome appearance would sell it quickly. It was enjoyable working together on a project that didn’t involve mental strain, since it seemed like all we ever did was study.

Mustang grill

I felt overloaded with student teaching, seminars, and homework, but once Nate got deep into his law classes, there was no comparison as to who was busiest. He won, hands down.

Mom's letterAfter we finished the car, I opened a long letter from Mom, thanking us for their time in Champaign. She also wrote about Mary and Bervin getting a dog, a Cocker Spaniel. Rusty and Baron were becoming friends, and Mom wrote two paragraphs describing their antics.

As I read the letter, a new thought came. Did they really want to keep Baron for us, or were they just doing it as a sacrificial favor? Were we taking advantage of them by asking them to keep him?

Mom wrote, The Baron is A-OK, tearing up a box right now in the basement here. He brightens our lives.

But I pictured Mom, on her hands and knees, cleaning up shredded cardboard and I had my doubts. I knew she worried about Baron running off when they were outside and had no good answer for what they would do with him if they went on vacation.

And all of a sudden I began to cry. Nate came running and put his arms around me. “What’s the matter?”

Tuckered out Baron“I feel guilty that Mom and Dad have to keep our dog. They have to feed and house him, watch over him, and she just wrote that they took him in for his first round of puppy shots. We should be doing that.”

“Yes, but your mother really does love him – genuinely.”

“I know, but it isn’t just that.” And through tears I began remembering aloud all the ways my parents had helped us – going along with our rushed wedding plans, accepting Nate with enthusiasm, providing furniture, rugs, virtually everything in our apartment.

My familyThey had loaned us money, which moved my thoughts back to the cost of my college education… and so much more. I thought of my childhood as I grew up in an atmosphere of listening and love. Best of all, they had introduced me to Jesus Christ from the beginning, modeling lives committed to him.

As I sat with Mom’s letter in my lap and Nate’s arms around me, I sobbed and sobbed, overwhelmed with how much I’d been given and wondering if I had taken these gifts for granted. Did they know how much I appreciated everything? Had I thanked them enough?

Nate suggested I put all my thoughts into a long letter. “It’ll make you feel better to write it, and they’ll love receiving it.”

He was right, and I began. But even as I penned page after page of gratitude, my thoughts were on the Baron-dilemma.

“If you honor your father and mother, things will go well for you.” (Ephesians 6:3)

Newlywed Love (#78)

July 17-18, 1970

By the end of the week, both Nate and I were ready for a break from studies. We invited Cathy and John over for 11:00 PM ice cream sundaes and talked into the night – because they came bringing bad news.

John.John’s draft number was getting close, which wouldn’t have been a problem with his law school deferment. But he very much wanted to quit school.

Worse than that, though, was the news that John might be going blind. They’d just learned this from an eye doctor and were still reeling. John hoped the Army would give him a 1-A deferment – after which he would quit school.

The whole conversation was depressing, and since neither Cathy nor John had any spiritual underpinnings, they felt hopeless. Our best encouragement didn’t seem to help.

When Nate and I fell into bed after 2:30 AM, we held each other close and voiced our hope that these good friends would be OK and that they’d one day connect with Jesus Christ… the Giver of hope. This was our first peer-experience with a major health crisis, and it felt awful.

Mom and Dad and fondue.Saturday was much brighter, because Mom and Dad were coming – and  bringing our beloved Baron! We prepared the fondue dinner they’d requested and when they walked in, we couldn’t believe how much Baron had grown in just two weeks. Nate kissed him right on the mouth!

Mom told us that several families had asked if Baron was available for adoption. His cooperative, friendly demeanor delighted many, so Mom asked our opinion. We said absolutely not, and wisely, that’s what she’d told the others.

Allerton PkNate and I spent the night on the Murphy bed, giving Mom and Dad our room, and on Saturday morning we satisfied another parental request – a visit to Allerton Park. They’d heard us rave about it but had never been there.





Nate and DadAt one point Dad said he wanted to talk to Nate, so those two went one direction while Mom and I chased after Baron.

The 3 of them left in late afternoon, headed for yet another commitment in the Chicago area. After we waved them off, I couldn’t wait to get the details on what Dad had  talked to Nate about.

It turned out to be our poisonous Mustang.

We had continued driving it through the summer, leaving the windows down to prevent headaches. But Dad was concerned since a cooler season was coming.

“If you can sell the Mustang for a reasonable price, we can put something together without too much trouble,” he said.  “I’d like to see you in a new car for a change. But it would have to be cheaper and smaller than the cars you’ve had.”

Model A-Dad believed used cars weren’t reliable and since buying his first vehicle (a Model A Ford in the 1920’s), he’d always bought new.

By Monday morning, Nate and I had put an ad in the local paper, knowing it would be illegal not to disclose the toxic nature of our car. We priced it realistically and were flying high at the prospect of new wheels!

But our thoughts were heavy, too… because of Cathy and John.

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.” (Psalm 10:17)