Newlywed Love (#61)

May 14, 1970

A-plus

Nate was a natural worrier, something new I was learning about my young husband. Although he was a good student, he always doubted his readiness for class participation and exams. I thought of him as one of those people who was “sure” he would fail every test but then would end up getting “A’s”.

My experience had always been to worry about getting a bad grade and then get one. It bothered me that Nate worried so much when most of it was unnecessary.

Worse yet, he was already stressing about a first law job, where it might be, and how grueling the interview process to get it would be. He was also concerned about how his active duty military requirements could possibly fit with his graduation from law school and his first “real” job.

My philosophy had always been to worry only about the thing in front of me and leave the next one alone till it came into view. But I had to admit, that plan often resulted in being unprepared and missing opportunities.

Nevertheless, I wished Nate wouldn’t worry so much. I knew that career issues were big for guys and that Nate wanted to be successful so he could provide for me and whatever family we might have. That part I liked.

Studying.Our differences in thinking, however, were probably one of those things married couples couldn’t change about each other. We’d been warned not to try that, and though I would have preferred Nate not worry so much, I knew telling him to stop wouldn’t make any difference.

He was programmed to be concerned for things far down the road, and the truth was, I could benefit from having some of that rub off on me.

I wrote in my journal:

Although I can’t share his worry and anxiety over his future career, I know the need of a male to be successful is great. I love him more for desiring to get so much out of life. And ambition is one of the qualities I admire most in him.

(I also admired his body, telling him he looked like Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.)  I wrote:

He’s so neat and strong looking, and looks like the statue of Michelangelo’s “David.” Nate is a beautiful, generous, manner-ful, gracious, tactful person. I’ll love him more with each tomorrow.

Journal

And with all that going on, maybe a little worrying wasn’t such a big deal anyway.

“Let God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.” (Philippians 4:6-7, The Message)

Newlywed Love (#59)

May 9, 1970

About this time, Nate and I bumped into an unexpected disagreement. My cooking was improving as I learned from my many failures, but our dinner hour presented a new problem.

Nate looked forward to our evening meal with enthusiasm every single day. He came to the table hungry and was always generous with compliments and kisses for the cook. Though I loved spending time with him, my perspective on dinner was a world away from his.

Dinner for two.

I didn’t like cooking, and my M.O. was to get the process over with as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, over the months of being married, that same mindset had spread to wanting the whole meal finished fast, too.

This was in direct conflict with Nate’s desire that we eat slowly and linger at the table. I wolfed down my food without considering his point of view and then jumped up to head for the kitchen sink. While still turning to chat with him as he ate, I attacked the pans and cooking mess, wanting to check that off quickly, too.

One evening as we sat down to chicken and rice he said, “Can I talk to you about something?” The way he said it worried me. What could possibly be wrong?

“Sure,” I said. “We can talk about anything you want.”

“Well…” he said, hesitating, “you know how you always finish eating before I do?”

“Yes… because you’re hungrier than me, and you eat more, which is how it should be.”

“Right,” he said, measuring his words. “But then, when you’re done, you leave the table.”

“You mean to start washing dishes?”

“Yes.”

“Does that bother you?” I said.

“Sort of.”

“Why?”

Eating alone“Well… because each day when we’re apart, I miss you a lot. And when we finally sit down across from each other, I want to talk to you and hope you’ll talk to me. But you get up before we’ve barely gotten started.”

Although his words were spoken with gentleness, they hurt my feelings.

“But I’m just trying to be efficient,” I said, defending myself. “And that way, by the time you’re done eating, the dishes are pretty much done, too.”

After making his point, he wisely backed away, leaving me a minute to think about it. Then he made one last comment that poked through my defensiveness. “How ‘bout if we sit together for a while longer, and then, after dinner is over, we do the dishes together?”

“Really?” I said.

With that I melted. “Gee, I’m really sorry,” I said. ”I didn’t realize.” The tension disappeared, and I learned that even though his plate held more food than mine, if I didn’t gulp mine down, we could finish together.

Dirty dishesFor Nate, conversation was as big a part of having dinner as the eating. And it was much nicer talking face-to-face than to my back as I stood at the sink.

Once I decided to stay at the table longer, we had much deeper conversations – exchanges that continued as we stood side-by-side washing dishes together.

And I’d learned something new and very special about the man I loved.

“Be good…. and be ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)

Newlywed Love (#58)

May 6, 1970

As Nate and I looked forward to celebrating our 6 month anniversary, we were excited about celebrating something else, too. Since January, I had been steadily writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts —  and had only 3 more to go. Unfortunately, all 3 had become separated from the names of their givers, and I didn’t know who to thank.

Gift recordIn a letter to Mom, I described these orphan-gifts, none of them written in our blue record book, hoping she could help me solve the mystery. Amazingly, she remembered two of them, having had conversations with both givers before they made their purchases. But neither of us could figure out the third.

I felt terrible. It was bad enough people had waited so long for our acknowledgment, but never to hear from us? That was unacceptable.

Mom and I talked it over – again and again. Sometimes I woke during the night wondering who it was we were neglecting to thank. But after we’d explored all possible avenues of discovery, Mom challenged me to let it go. With her characteristic optimism she insisted the answer would come eventually.

Mystery giftThe stray gift was a three-section serving dish – carved out of monkey pod wood. For some reason Nate found that fascinating (and humorous), calling it “the perfect conclusion” to my long thank-you project. When I brought out the dish and put it in his hands, he laughed so hard he had to take out his hankie and wipe his eyes. Something about monkey pod wood just tickled his fancy.

When I told Mom I “wouldn’t rest” till I’d solved the mystery, she said she wasn’t as concerned about that as about something else that was greatly bothering her — and it had nothing to do with thank-you notes or monkey pod wood.

Vietnam protestors carrying anti-war signs during march from dowtown Market Street to Golden Gate Park's Kezar Stadium for rally called "Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam".

She and Dad had been watching the nightly news as a fresh round of riots had broken out on the University of Illinois campus. Four unarmed students had been killed on the Kent State campus while demonstrating against the Vietnam War. In response, riots broke out on many university campuses, the U. of IL included.

Mom and Dad were concerned for their new son-in-law, knowing he was on campus every day. After watching the National Guard invade the campus once again, Mom wrote:

The violence at the U. of I. disturbs us. We know you are too sensible to become involved to endangerment.

But it was more than just that:

We Christians must rise to stand in our faith. Jesus Christ is the only answer to society’s dilemma. How now to communicate that? Youth longs for truth. If parents cannot reveal truth, and the church fails in her appointed task, how can the young be blamed?

I had a hunch that if Mom lived in Champaign, she’d be on that campus every night, walking among the rioters, using kindness to urge them toward peace. She would also look them in the eyes and listen carefully to their complaints. She loved kids, and they loved her – always. And in her mind, college student were kids.

She wrote further:

The poor students – those who are sincerely seeking education like our Nate. If students can’t learn and practice law, to what end will criminals go?

Mom was right. Her thoughts about kids longing for truth were more important than my angst over an anonymous gift – of monkey pod wood.

“It is wrong to say…. the Almighty isn’t concerned…. He will bring justice if you will only wait. (Job 35:13-14)