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 (#73)

June 28-July 2, 1970

My second week of student teaching was harder than the first. The 22-year-old certified teacher (to whom I was accountable) told me I would be doing most of the teaching while she sat and observed.

That meant every evening I had to study curriculum materials and prepare lesson plans. Since I didn’t know what I was doing with this new grade level, I had to dig into the seminar textbooks by the hour to figure it all out.

Job searchAs for Nate’s days, he continued making calls and pounding the pavement seeking a third job, since day-after-day his name was passed over for construction work, and his pots and pans weren’t selling.

The two of us had virtually no time together and were suffering because of it. We did sit together over our simple dinners, but the rest of the time I was either gone or busy. The only recreation was late-night coffee breaks with Cathy and John… and of course fun in the bedroom.

One evening we gave ourselves the luxury of a walk through the neighborhood, taking Baron with us. His funny antics always lifted our spirits.

DiscouragedWhen we returned to our apartment, though, we discovered we’d locked ourselves out. The only option was to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask to use the phone. Then, after calling the landlord, the 3 of us waited on the front step.

We talked about our sticky situation with Baron being there, and how it could end badly. But I had an idea. “I could take Baron around to the back yard,” I said, “so Mr. Norman won’t see him.”

Nate, with his sterling integrity, responded exactly as I expected. “Better not.”

“But what is he gonna say?”

“Well… let’s just wait and see. Maybe it won’t be a big deal.”

When Mr. Norman finally arrived with his master key, he immediately zeroed in on Baron, perched in Nate’s arms. “Who’s this little fellow?”

Nate introduced them while Baron did his best to radiate puppy-charm. Watching our landlord pat him on the head lit a tiny flame of hope in me. But then he said, “He’s not your dog, is he?”

Nate and I took a quick glance at each other, which of course answered the question. “Well… he can’t stay here. Nothing against him, you understand, but that’s my rule.”

When we didn’t respond, he continued. “I’ll tell you what. You can have through the weekend to figure out what to do. But after that, he needs to be gone.”

Our feet were heavy as we followed Mr. Norman and his key up the stairs. He didn’t chide us for interrupting his evening or threaten to evict us. But as he gave Baron one last pat on the head he said, “By the end of the weekend.” And that was that.

Baron at easeMy heart was hurting, but Nate summed it up well. “We knew this would happen eventually. And really, he didn’t even have to let us back in the apartment… with Baron.”

“I suppose,” I said. “And I guess being honest should count for something” – though right then I wished I’d done the dishonest thing and taken him to the back yard.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3)

Newlywed Love (#68)

June 6-14, 1970

At Nate's house.After Nate’s last exams and the end of my school year in Danville, the two of us headed off to an all-day Nyman family reunion. From there we continued on to Nate’s home to spend several days with his brother (right) and parents.

Our two little charges, Toby 2 and Baron, came along, providing non-stop entertainment.

From there we drove to Wilmette where Mom and Dad had a chance to get acquainted with their grand-doggies. The first Toby, our family dog for 15 years, had been Mom’s constant companion, and she missed him dearly. Cuddling with two lookalikes did something special for her heart, and even Dad bonded with our little buddies.

Mom loves the puppiesDad and puppy.

During the week we connected with Mary, Bervin, brother Tom, Aunt Agnes, and others, one of which was our friend Connie.

She had a new puppy, too, and her roommate was longing for a dog of her own. She asked if we’d ever consider parting with one of our little guys, and though we gave her a firm no, we looked at each other and then told her we’d think about it.

Connie and pup


At the beachToward mid-week we drove the 110 miles to our family’s summer cottage in Michigan, where the poochies had their first beach experience. They wore them- selves out dashing up and down the dunes, and though neither braved a swim, both loved scampering along the water line. Nate and I bragged to Mom and Dad about how smart they were, learning to potty outdoors and even whining to get out when they needed to go.

Puppies diggingAs the week passed, we talked about the possibility of parting with one of our puppies. The reality was that two dogs might be one too many in our small Champaign apartment.

By the time we arrived back in Wilmette, we knew what was the wise thing to do – surrender one of them to Connie’s roommate. She was thrilled when we told her and came right over to play with them and learn their personalities.

Since Nate and I loved them equally, we let her choose which one she wanted: it was Toby 2. The only good thing about this transition (so difficult for us) was that now, instead of being a #2, Toby 2 became a full-fledged Toby – and a definite #1 with his new owner.

Holding him closeOur drive back to Champaign after a week away was quiet and sad. I held Baron close, promising him we’d never let him go. The next day, however, brought a bit of bad news. While showing him off to several neighbors, one of them said, “Don’t you know dogs aren’t allowed in our building?”

We hadn’t considered such a possibility and had never thought to ask the landlord. But one thing was certain – hiding one dog would be easier than hiding two.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matthew 10:26)