It was 11:45 PM on a sub-zero February night, and I was pushing a loaded cart through a 24-hour grocery store. The day had been so jam-packed with five children and their needs, I hadn’t had time to shop. But we were out of everything, and it had to be done.
Even though all the kids were in bed, Nate volunteered to wait up for me, a selfless act for a guy who got up with a 5:00 AM alarm. “The least I can do is help you unload.” He may have been wondering why I was so inefficient with my day that I had to get groceries at midnight, but he didn’t say so.
The weather had been below zero for a record number of days in Chicago. It was the kind of cold that made your nose stick together when you sniffed.
As I turned down our street, I regretted our long driveway and the house-length distance from the car to the kitchen but then got an idea. The ground was ice-solid, so as I turned in the driveway, I drove right onto the front lawn and pulled up to within inches of the kitchen porch steps. This translated to fewer steps for Nate and I, fewer minutes out in the freezing cold and more minutes asleep.
I wasn’t sure how Nate would respond to my idea, and when he opened the kitchen door, he had alarm written all over him, as if my brakes had failed and I’d nearly mowed down the porch. But I jumped out of the car saying, “Good idea, huh?” If nothing else, it was efficient.
I tell this little story because it’s one of thousands of funny memories Nate and I shared, and every couple has a catalog of these, beginning with when they met. The recalling of past couple-comedy or even couple-drama can be the glue that holds two people together if they’re falling apart.
When Nate was in the thick of fighting it out with cancer, we found it beneficial to talk away from it. Discussing symptoms, pain levels and med doses was only troubling, and we both knew we were headed nowhere good. But looking back to the silly stories of our couple-history became a happy diversion that brought smiles rather than apprehension. It became a game to come up with something we hadn’t thought of in years.
When present day life offered nothing but misery, stepping out of it to go back to better days was nourishing and even healing. Memories couldn’t heal Nate’s infected organs, but they were a balm to a different kind of “insides”.
We’ve all heard marriage counselors advise troubled couples to look back on their early relationship for the reasons they fell in love. Life complicates for all of us as the years pass, piling debris between husbands and wives until it’s impossible to climb over it to touch each other. Remembering the silly or risky or crazy days of former years helps sweep away some of the rubble of current woes.
Nate and I found that recounting one memory often triggered another. We could spend thirty light-hearted minutes daisy-chaining happy times together, giggling, smiling, touching one another across the debris of cancer between us.
This can also work for physically healthy couples who find their marriages ailing. Although none of us can erase the past to get that proverbial clean slate, shared memories of earlier days together can bring fresh perspective to today’s troubles. In remembering we can sometimes reclaim some of that original joy.
After Nate and I had unloaded the groceries that cold February night, he pulled the car back over the lawn and onto the driveway where it belonged. When he came in, he did a little recollecting even that night. “Remember when you did fly off the driveway and smash into the porch by the front door? That’s what I was thinking when I saw you coming across the lawn tonight.”
We laughed then, and we laughed 15 years later about the same incident during Nate’s cancer, enjoying looking back at a memory we’d shared.
“Rejoice with the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18b)