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 (#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)

Newlywed Love (#39)

March 9, 1970

About this time, Nate and I received a long letter from Mom that had us laughing at the beginning but disturbed by the end:

Your father and I attended a co-ed baby shower on Friday. It was different having the daddies there, and you would have gotten some jollies out of seeing the fathers diaper and dress some large baby dolls. It was hilarious! We timed them. Those poor dolls…

Then she wrote:

From there we dropped in on Aunt Agnes and partied further. Your pa and I were driving separately, since I had had to be at the shower early. So, as I arrived home first, it was 12:30 AM. Dad was 15 minutes behind me.

When I unlocked the back door and stepped into the house, everything was topsy-turvey. Burglars!

Police.I hurried back outside to the front of the house to await your father but then noticed the front door was standing open and bedroom shades were pulled down. I ran next door where they helped me call the police, who came in just a few minutes. They asked us to stay outside while they searched the house.

When your dad finally arrived and we got back inside, we saw the definition of the words “ransacked house.” Every drawer had been pulled out and overturned, and there are many of them. The closets were torn apart, clothes walked on, boxes torn in haste. All kitchen cabinets were opened, though nothing was taken from those.

Books.The den was the worst. They had pulled every book off our wall of bookshelves and thrown stationary everywhere – looking for cash. The officer said it was strictly profess- sionals looking for money and jewels. The police found that they had removed a grate off the basement window well, broken the window, and come through.

Dad lost the new engraved watch he was given at his retirement party, and they took the treasury of my women’s club, $85 [about $575 today].

This is a jolting, revolting experience. But let me say, we are counting our blessings. It all could have been so much worse.

Then she went back to her usual jovial style of writing:

Glad you’re making a fast quarter-hundred by giving blood. Remember, “The life is in the blood.”

After reporting the family news, she ended by referencing the biblical John’s writing:

As John writes in his epistles, “my little children,” so I write. Be good. And rest assured of our love and prayers.  Mom

She was remarkable in her casual attitude about the break-in, and we wondered if recovering from the shock of it was as easy as she made it out to be. But as she had often said, “I never have to worry about a thing. Your father does enough of that for both of us.”

It was true. I saw her consistently live that philosophy throughout my growing-up years, and I suppose it’s a pretty good attitude for all of us to emulate. God instructs us not to worry about things, because the Father “worries about things” (i.e. takes care them) enough for all of us.

Jesus said, “I tell you not to worry about everyday life. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Don’t worry about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6:25,27,34)