Newlywed Love (#32)

February 13-14, 1970

Since the first of the year, I had been chipping away at writing thank you notes for the hundreds of wedding gifts Nate and I had been blessed to receive. Although my original goal was to write 5 of them each evening (with more on weekends), I couldn’t keep up that pace. And though I had long since ditched that goal, little by little I was actually making progress.

Valentines DayThe week before Valentine’s Day, I was highly motivated to be extra diligent in my note-writing…. because Mom and Dad were coming.

I knew Mom would ask how many thank you’s I’d written so far. Most of our gifts had come from friends in her generation, and timely thank you’s were a must. People needed to know their gift had been received and that it was appreciated.

Earlier in the week a letter had come from her, detailing their weekend arrival and departure schedule. She had also written a few encouraging lines about my thank you notes:

“Many, many people tell me they are receiving “unusual” letters of thanks from you, Margaret. You’d be amazed at what the difference is when a bit of extra is put into such notes. You would be greatly surprised at how many people have mentioned your letters to me.”

Mom's letter

I had to admit I was giving the process my all, more for Mom than the recipients of the notes. Not wanting to disappoint her, I had taken up her challenge to put something personal into each one. And it did make me feel better than if I’d written generically – though it took a great deal longer.

Nate was my faithful cheerleader and sometimes stood next to me, asking to read a note aloud. His laudatory comments and nonstop appreciation spurred me on. And he was especially tickled if he read a note thanking for any gift made of “monkey pod wood” — something new and popular at the time for salad bowls and their utensils.

If he came across those 3 words, “monkey pod wood,” inevitably he would double over with laughter so intense he’d have to brush tears away. Then his laughter would make me laugh, and the silly joke was so potent I didn’t dare use our monkey pod salad bowls if guests were over. It became one of those inside jokes between a husband and wife that no one else understood, a little secret between just the two of us.

First time fondueWhen Mom and Dad came, they brought Aunt Agnes, and we introduced the three of them to the art of fondue. It was hilarious watching their expressions as we explained how dinner was going to be made.

And as they got into the process, their focus on cooking was intense. We all laughed each time a chunk of food would slip from their forks and disappear into the oil. When that happened, their comments were side-splitting funny. Aunt Agnes spent most of the meal on her feet, standing guard over the pieces of her dinner.

Ice CapadesThe next day we took them to the university arena where we saw the Ice Capades, a new show none of us had ever seen. Although Mom thought the girls’ costumes left too much flesh exposed, she had to admit the skating was phenomenal.

After that mid-afternoon performance, they had to hightail it back to Wilmette for evening commitments there, and Nate and I chalked up another happy connection with our relatives.

Although we forfeited our privacy whenever people visited, we had a lifetime to enjoy each other and knew we shouldn’t be selfish about sharing our lives and our home. Besides, it was always so much fun after guests were gone to once again be alone — together.

“Don’t forget to do good and to share…. These are the sacrifices that please God.” (Hebrews 13:16)

Newlywed Love (#31)

February 11, 1970

About this time, Nate had a very rough night that culminated in a severe migraine headache. I had no idea what a migraine was until I watched him suffer through one. His agony was intense, and the only thing that helped was a darkened room with a cool cloth over his forehead and even covering his eyes.

MigrainesHe told me he had suffered through several migraines during high school, but nearly a decade had passed without a single one. Hoping they had just been part of bodily changes from boyhood to manhood, he figured he’d seen his last one.

But there he was, stricken with the worst one he’d ever known, flat on his back and unable to sleep, eat, or even have a conversation. He certainly couldn’t cope with going to classes.

As his “helpmeet,” I felt helpless. Other than to re-soak his face cloth for him, there was little else I could do. And so I sat on the edge of the bed and prayed, longing for God to make him feel better.

Just before it was time for me to go to work, he vomited, and then fell into a deep sleep. His last words before drifting off were, “You go ahead. The worst is over.”

The migraineI penned a quick note and left for school, tremendously worried about my young husband. What had caused this awful attack? Had I done anything to bring it on? And how could we prevent it from ever happening again?

When I returned home later, he was dressed and sitting at the table, bent over his law books. He said he felt drained but that the headache had been completely gone when he’d woken from his morning sleep.

We had a long talk about what might have brought it on and came to no conclusions. He reassured me over and over that it had nothing to do with me. “Since migraines are most likely caused by intense stress,” he said, “then having you alongside me could only help, not hurt.”

We wondered aloud if he should drop one of his classes or quit his job at H & R Block. Feeling fine again, though, he said he didn’t want to do that unless there were more migraines.  I admired his willingness to work so hard, especially since meeting his goals was as much for me as it was for him. But his bottom line was, “Let’s just see what happens.”

And so we prayed together about it, asking God to relieve Nate’s pressure and to keep future migraines away. In the mean time, I had one more question for Nate. “Do you think having some extra sex might increase the odds of never having another headache?”

He smiled his most handsome smile and said, “Well, why don’t we find out?”

And I was so glad to have him back again.

“The Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” (Isaiah 49:13)

Newlywed Love (#29)

Newlywed Love (#29)

February 6, 1970

Nate and I had been married for 70 days when we hit some “white water rapids” in our adjustment to being husband and wife. Much like the misunderstanding that occurred when he bought the Christmas tree without me, this episode was similar. It was a minor disagreement related to how our varied upbringings had taught us differently — neither was right or wrong, just not the same.

As with the Christmas tree, my response was not to ask rational questions or use logic but to burst into tears.

I wasn’t weeping to manipulate Nate or get my way. That hadn’t even occurred to me. The crying was completely involuntary, and as always, I made no attempt to hold it back.

What I hadn’t considered was how upsetting my tears were to Nate, just as they had been in December. He immediately blamed himself for causing me to cry, which he saw as a catastrophe. This compounded the issue at hand and tipped the blame heavily in his direction. And that wasn’t right.

After our clash, we had restored our relationship quickly with lots of hugging and affirmations of love. But the next morning, as I tried to teach school, I was still bothered by my irrational tears and the extra stress they added to Nate.

I kept picturing his grief-stricken face as he tried to comfort me enough to stop my crying, and I felt terrible about it.

During my lunch break, I decided to write him a letter.

The only paper I had was a sheet of newsprint from my students’ art bin, but it was good enough. I wanted to reassure Nate of my unshakable love and also thank him for putting up with my tears. And I wanted him to know that my weeping wasn’t “the end of the world” as he seemed to think it was.

Letter.

I knew I couldn’t ask Nate to just get used to it, and I didn’t want him to go to the other extreme, disregarding my tears as insignificant. I loved when he comforted me. But I hoped he could learn not to see it as a disaster but just as one of the foibles of his bride.

I wanted him to know, in writing, how grateful I was for his patient, caring response to me the day before, and in a way, I wanted to apologize for upsetting him so much.

By writing a letter, I hoped to build up my young husband and sympathize with him for his having to accept me “as is.” And rather than hand it to him that evening, I decided to mail it – from Champaign to Champaign.

Envelope

That way the message would have greater impact than if I just said it out loud. He could read and re-read it, hopefully being uplifted each time.

I thought back to our pre-marriage days when both Nate and I had prepared for marriage by reading books about it. All the authors agreed that difficult challenges were sure to come, and we had said, “Oh, not with us.”

Now we were beginning to see what they meant.

“After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” (1 Peter 5:10)