If I can’t give anything else to my children at the end of my life because I’ve spent it all on puppies, plants for the yard, and train trips to baseball games, what I can give them is a love story. It’s the only one I’ve ever truly known so I can’t say whether it’s the world’s greatest.
Yes I can. It is.
Oh, and Bob, this is your card and your present. It seems too small to attempt to fit my love for you into words because when I try I just think of more words and different words and swankier words. But here it is. A little early but that is also because I keep switching things up and trying to make words fit you. Not gonna happen and it’s making me crazy. Anyway, hope it’s better than a flashlight or a Duck sweatshirt. It’s a V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E.
Volumes could not contain a list of the times Bob has exercised extreme and abundant patience with me, his children, and the world around him. If you know him at all you’ve probably seen him be patient. (It’s maddening really. Ha!) He made good friends with my mother because of that. They could talk for hours about the most intricate of exasperating little issues and look at them in an impossible number of ways all while enjoying the journey of conversation and the joy of solving the problem. Dad and I would be somewhere else immediately. Then when our children came along, Bob became Mr. Daddy Extraordinaire. There was only one thing he couldn’t do for them and even then he would roll out of bed, go get the baby, change him/her and bring the darling to me and return said child to bed upon the end of the meal. Nary a gripe. I’ll not list here his lifetime achievements in the world of patience, but if you’ve interacted with him even a bit you can most likely testify.
Anger manifests itself differently in this person than in most men. At least I think it does. I only live with one man. It’s not that he doesn’t get angry; it’s that through his deep and abiding relationship with Jesus, he unfailingly remembers where he is and with whom before reacting and carefully measures his words against the person of Christ. He speaks with love and respect. I’ve been with this guy long enough, however, to have witnessed a phenomenon a few times. I’ll clue you in. If you know what to look for, about once every five years you may think you’re feeling the effects of the Cascadia Subduction Zone shifting under your feet. Underground tremors sort of. A little tectonic plate action. Instead it might just be Mad Bob. If it seems that is the case, then there’s no need to take shelter. Step back, give it time and it will pass. It’s not like a hurricane or volcano or catastrophic flash flood. It’s tricky. It’s a slight and silent tremor that starts subtly, making you wonder if you ate a bad piece of turkey last night. You can question and cajole and interrogate ’til you’re blue in the face but you’d best just hush up and pay attention to the ground underneath you. There are a few clues but only a practiced spouse can really predict when it’s about to go down. Eventually when the Earth Moves Under Your Feet you know it’s time to go to Target or something for a couple hours. Oh, and, if you witness one of these you’ll know it was no small matter that caused it — it takes a rather big ol’ deal to bring one on — he doesn’t waste them. Love you, Honey.
Leading our particular family cannot have been easy. And having me as a helpmate is sort of a mixed bag too at times no doubt. We haven’t always made it a walk in the park for him. Not one single person out of the six of us under his roof could be called understated. Honestly, If God in His wisdom had not put Bob together the way He did and then put me in the path of that boy, my life could’ve easily been disastrous. That is not an overstatement. I think I’ll just leave this here. He’s been our rock. For each of us.
Every weekday morning at 7:15 back in the day when all the children were still at home, Daddy/Bob would gather his brood in the living room for family devotions and prayer before everyone split up for a day of school and work. As teenagehood roared into lives in various ways, these precious moments were not always welcomed. Faithfully he led us. And to this day he and I trust the Lord with the futures that were fed in our living room. “Seven-Fifteen” still means something to the six of us though we’ve gone our separate ways. Devotion. Faithfulness. Family Glue. And Mom stomping on the kitchen floor at 7:14 to bring the teenagers up from the basement. That’s a powerful memory right there.
Newlyweds don’t necessarily know a lot about each other but you’d think a couple married say, 21 years or so, might. We still discuss whether the game was rigged (wishful thinking) but sad to say it was a clean competition and the two of us handily lost by a spectacular margin. In front of quite a crowd. We were camping with our kids and a large bunch of my cousins, their kids, grandparents, other odds and ends (like us who were happy to get an invitation to their annual event!). One of the activities was this now infamous Newlywed Game. We were not quite the longest married couple in the game, but almost. To say we came in last doesn’t quite do justice to the enormity of our loss. We didn’t get One Single Question correct. Not one. Our children hid their faces. Later when we were alone I expressed a bit of panic to my spouse. Bob, true to form, spoke comfort to the tune of, “I think we’ll be ok.” And we were. And we are. And I’ve always gotten a lot of orange gifts since then because that, apparently, is my favorite color.
The only times I’ve ever seen Bob get visibly pushy and aggressively outspoken being protective of me are the four times I’ve been in labor. You’d do well to stay away if I ever do that again! (That, my dears, is a joke. Good gracious.) But seriously, people, if we were prone to being on TV during labor and delivery (if you can think of the most unlikely thing in the universe, then put this one notch higher than that on the list), you’d see a Bob You Do Not Know. He’s not mean or nasty or loud (well maybe that once) but something turns over in his personality Central Processing Unit that ends up causing him to resemble and react like a grizzly bear. It probably has at least a little to do with his experience working in Labor and Delivery but who knows. Truth? I kind of enjoyed it. At least I did after every contraction ended and before the next one started. And then Presto! After baby’s safe arrival my regular even-keeled husband would magically return. And I began questioning whether it was just the drugs that brought Grizzly Bob around into my addled brain or if that guy truly existed. Nope. He’s real folks. Grizzly Bob. Heh. I’m gonna use that.
Indulging my crazy ideas has sometimes led Bob to a great deal of fun that he wouldn’t have had otherwise and at other times to, well let’s say, “adventures.” I couldn’t stop apologizing when it took us, oh, f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to drive to Whistler, British Columbia. Our little getaway eventually had some nice moments but the trip there (I’m chuckling as I type, but oh boy) was less than ideal. We hadn’t lived in Eugene, Oregon very long and were unfamiliar with the breadth and depth and pure black evil of both Portland and Seattle traffic for starters and then something caused a delay at the border crossing into Canada and wowzer, don’t miss your turn to stay on the bypass around Vancouver, B.C. unless you want big downtown city traffic and a neck- stretching view of tall buildings for a couple hours. It sure was pretty but our goal was a bunch farther north and the highway was, um, not close by. When we did indeed get back onto BC99 North in the dark pouring rain, there was then the tiny wrinkle dinkle of it being under massive construction for the upcoming Winter Olympics. We crawled into our room at Whistler about 14 hours after leaving home. Did Bob gripe? Complain? Accuse me of not using my marbles when I planned this trip? Nope. Sometimes I wonder if he’s real. I was mad enough at myself for the both of us. Yet he still trusts me to plan trips. Hmmm.
Nursing school. Oy. We learned over the years that Bob’s B.A. in Music Theory qualified him to go to graduate school or be a waiter or a bank teller. He did those things well, waiting tables in Nampa while I finished college, then starting/stopping grad school at UMKC when babies began coming, then working the drive thru at a tough neighborhood Kansas City bank later on–some hilarious stories right there! With Little Mitchells beginning to fill our home, it became clear that something needed to change and God was moving in our hearts. So while he went to school and worked, (both full time) I continued full time at Nazarene HQ and he became Bob R.N. just after the birth of our third squalling bundle. The bundle actually did squall clear through Bob’s graduation pinning ceremony even as his daddy sang, at the request of all his wonderful nursing school pals, “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings.” I kid you not. We have it on video. Another thing I wish we had on video is the day he told me he felt called to ministry. Boy oh boy. Yet, here we are. He’s been doing that now for 25 years, is still Bob R.N., and cranked out another degree with an M.A. in Spiritual Formation. Mr. Renaissance Man. I like him. I’m proud of him. But all this is nothing, worthless. Just words on paper without the Lord’s leading through it all. We got some crazy looks with every decision. There was a plan though. There still is. My sweetheart is a praying man. He doesn’t need initials behind his name for that.
Each generation is born into something. We, Bob and I, were born into the early 60s and grew up in the 70s with all that it brought to social change. Probably where I lived in Boulder, Colorado was just a bit (ha!) more left leaning, bra burning, Vietnam protesting, “I’m OK You’re Ok”, Woodstocky, campus-streaking kind of place than Bob’s Fallon, Nevada 89406 with its Naval Air Station. His wonderful veteran dad (a graduate of Northwest Nazarene College) was a juvenile probation officer who loved his family fiercely, made sure they were at the Nazarene church whenever the doors were open (often unlocking them himself), required obedience and respect of his four children, and modeled citizenship to his community. My wonderful veteran dad (a graduate of Northwest Nazarene College) also loved his family fiercely, knew all the words to all the hymns, modeled citizenship to his community, taught English literature and sat behind an adminstrator’s desk at CU during war sit-ins while his car was being swept for planted bombs, and indulged his one-and-only child her (almost) every wish. So basically Bob and I came from different worlds. My new husband was not daunted. It’s rough though, I would imagine, being compared to a new wife’s father. Bob gently taught me (with a couple Cascadia Subduction Zone tremors thrown in although I was too new to recognize them) that he was everything he promised me he would be. And much more. We had the most important things in common–faith, trust and hope. The good Lord provided this perfect man for me. No doubt about it.
So by way of wishing my dear one a Happy Valentine’s Day I’ll finish with this. I get weak in the knees when I hear the Schubert Impromptu No.2, Op.142. If you ask Bob what our song is he would say “Happy Man” by Chicago and he’d be partly right. He wasn’t on the hearing end of this though when it became our song in my way of thinking — he was on the playing end. Thirty-eight Februarys ago it was the background music to the scenes played out when I fell in love with a boy. He played it, worked it, and polished it for hours in the practice rooms of the Fine Arts building while I pretended to do homework. (My grades suffered but my heart grew.) When I hear it now, I see him in his Goodwill green sweater, long hair, focused countenance bent over the keyboard. When I hear it I see him. When I see him I love him. Still.
If you’d like to listen, it’s an almost seven minute commitment. It really takes off around 2:35 or so. If nothing else, it might serve to get you into my scattered busy head a little because this music is most definitely in there.
We are older now (but not “old”—I’ve been told to stop saying that). If you knew all the scenes in which we have played our parts and all the songs that have been the background music to the production of our lives, you might begin to see the story. The overarching theme has been beauty and triumph and joy because we know Jesus. Make no mistake though, there are dark fabrics of struggle woven into some of the stormier scenery. A few of those patches are sewn into our current days. That’s life on earth I think. Our love story though, the arm-in-arm with each other and the constant dependence on the promises of God and pointing to His goodness in our lives, are what have kept us moving forward. This man I am married to, have loved for almost four decades, is the mainsail of our family ship–all kinds of fabrics included–and without him we’d have gone off course years ago. Whatever time we have left together, decades, years or moments, I’m thankful for it all. We’ve memories yet to make. Honey, you’re my boy.
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
Ephesians 4:1-4 NLT
Much love to all but the most to Bob,