Newlywed Love (#50)

April 7, 1970

Mom wrote to us about once a week. These days she was using carbon paper to type 3 copies simultaneously, sending one to Tom in Washington DC, one to Mary and Bervin in Chicago, and one to Nate and me. Although Mary and Bervin got together with the folks regularly, Mom didn’t want them to miss her letters.

She sometimes waxed eloquent and frequently taught spiritual principles she didn’t want any of us to forget. In this week’s correspondence, Mom had chosen to write about the blessing of family, particularly her 3 kids.

Here, there and everywhere around 1140 [their address] are bits of evidence of Mary, Margaret, and Thomas, each here to warm the cockles of our hearts (whatever they are!) and to bless us with precious memories. You are such wonderful children. The only explanation for each of you is God’s goodness, plus your great, great father. As I’ve said before, we couldn’t have all the children in the world, so we just had the best!

Mom raves

Mom had married late for brides of 1941, at the ripe old age of 28. Although she had always been the life of every party, she was the last of her friends to marry. Maybe young suitors wondered if they could handle her spirited personality.

Mom loves DadThen along came Dad, 13 years older, stable and steady, and she was the one he wanted. Mom never got over her good fortune in his choosing her, and she let him know it every single day of their 50 years married – running to him with hugs, kisses, and wild squeals of delight every time he walked in the door.

Her dream was to have a house full of children, but after having Mary and I, her #3 was a miscarriage that became life-threatening when she hemorrhaged. She lost enough blood to make survival doubtful.

But Mom had a determination to live, and after massive set-backs that landed her at Mayo Clinic for months, in the end she came through just fine. Her desire for a dozen children, however, was not to be. “No more babies,” her doctor said. “You could die.”

There was no such thing as birth control in the 1940’s, but Dad wisely determined they would comply with the doctor’s orders. He began keeping a calendar of her cycle himself, not trusting Mom — with her passion for children and penchant for taking chances.

Dad’s system worked well for 4 years, but then, quite unexpectedly, news came of a 3rd pregnancy. This put Mom in heaven and Dad into the depths of worry. Though Mom never admitted to tricking him, we were all sure she did. If so, she did it ingeniously, giving birth to Tom on Dad’s 50th birthday.

At the beach.Dad was relieved that Mom had made it through her pregnancy without incident, and of course he adored his little boy. And Mom? She graciously accepted that this bonus baby had completed her family. Maybe that’s why she frequently made reference to having “not all the children in the world, just the best.”

As for Mary, Tom and I, any way we looked at it, one thing was certain: we’d grown up immersed in love – and also the responsibility to pass it on.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” (Romans 13:8)

Young Love (#98)

October 18 – 19, 1969


The folks.In all the wedding excitement, Mom and Dad had a reason of their own to celebrate. It was their 28th anniversary, and as always, their weekend was crammed with activity. Mom was planning and attending a bridal shower, painting the living room, teaching Sunday school, playing the organ in church, shopping for drapes, making airport runs, and studying music choices for our wedding.

My Aunt Joyce and Uncle Edward (Dad’s brother) had come to town on their way from Washington DC back to California, and Nate and I had dearly hoped to join in on the fun. It was always a special treat to spend time with my aunt, my mentor, and yet things were happening in Champaign, too.

Nate was bearing down on his law studies with mid-terms on the horizon and was also hunting for a part time job.

As Mom and Dad’s anniversary came closer, I realized I hadn’t planned ahead for a gift or good wishes and decided to send a telegram – the only way to get a message to them quickly, apart from a phone call. I thought a telegram might make a bit of a splash…. and knew it would get there on time.

In the end, it was a good thing we stayed in Champaign. Our newspaper ad for the Corvette was getting a lively response, and the first young man who came to see and drive it, ended up buying it. Nate stood nearby as this guy and his buddy spent 2 hours inspecting every inch of the car. They even pulled the front end up onto a curb and squeezed themselves beneath it, conversing under there about what they were seeing.

Selling the Corvette

Finally, well after dark, they began negotiating with Nate. He told them multiple parties had called in response to the ad, and by the time he climbed the stairs back to our apartment, he had the cash-in-hand – our full asking price.

Though it was sad to watch our beautiful car pull away with two strangers in its red bucket seats, having made the sale brought us one step closer to a practical replacement vehicle.

As the weekend closed, Mom sat down and wrote us to say thanks for the telegram and to report on their anniversary festivities. At the end of the letter she showed her love for Nate in an unusual way.

HappyShe surmised we were having fun together in Champaign but decided to caution me about overdoing it. She wrote, “Keep in mind, little girl, that Nathan must study. No time for frivolities until the Christmas break.”

Little did she know that he was the one initiating most of those frivolities.

“There is a time to laugh… and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Young Love (#74)

July 30, 1969

Moving van leavesAfter a moving van had delivered the grand piano, the organ, and all the other large furniture to Mom and Dad’s new house, all of us were emotionally and physically weary.


Tired packers

Everybody was looking forward to a good night’s sleep (though I don’t recall where Nate and I actually slept that night), but we decided to wait for Mom and Dad to arrive. When they didn’t come and didn’t come, we began to worry.

Finally, well after midnight, their car pulled into the drive. And when we saw Mom, we knew she had hit a low point. Her eyes were swollen and red from crying – this from a Mom I’d seen cry only twice in my life (once over a niece’s death, and once concerning a church problem).

As soon as they stepped in the door, I held up our “WELCOME HOME” sign, hoping it would cheer her. But it did just the opposite. She burst into tears, throwing her arms around me and saying something like, “God bless you for thinking of your old mother, darling.”

Knowing she was desperate for sleep, we led her into their new bedroom. We had made the bed and turned down the sheets, laying out their fanciest PJs. Candles were burning, music was playing, and we’d put a photo of us 3 kids on the dresser. We were shooting for humor — and as I watched her face, I did see the corners of her mouth turn up a tad, even as tears continued to fall.

Back yardBut poor Dad. His moving decision had been based on logic, as all his decisions were, knowing that empty-nesters didn’t need 5000 square feet of living space. Surely he felt bad watching Mom take it so hard, but having lived with her for 30 years at that point, he knew she would rally. He often said, “Your Ma is an optimist,” and that she was.

Though I had never read Mom’s 1969 journal until I dug it out this week, I was gratified to see what she’d written about that night:


After midnight.

I knew when the sun rose, Mom would feel better and would be able to start tackling the wall-to-wall boxes in her living room. What none of us could have guessed, though, was that she had pocketed a front door key to the old house and had already made plans to return there the next day.

Before she could officially say goodbye, she had some unfinished business to tend to.

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you…” (2 Peter 1:2)