Love Still Stands

Final Episode.

It’s been fun sharing our epic love story this month.  Thanks for reading!

I wanted to wrap up this series with one more rollicking story that would amuse and entertain.  To be sure, PB and I have had our share of funny memories and adventures.  In this last post of February, though, I have a different kind of story.

Several months after our wedding, I came down with a bad case of the stomach flu.  There’s something you need to know about me — I’m deathly afraid of throwing up.  I fight the gag reflex with everything I’ve got and I always win.  I’ve done some psychoanalysis on myself and I suspect this phobia (emetophobia, to be precise) stems from losing my mom at a young age.  Every time I got sick as I child, my mother would go into the bathroom with me and rub my back as I leaned over the toilet.  After she died, I was convinced I couldn’t go through such trauma without her comforting touch.  So I resolved to never throw up again.  

Then, as a newly married lady, my greatest fear was upon me.  I couldn’t fight it off or keep it down.  I was terrified.  When the inevitable was about to happen, PB followed me into the bathroom and rubbed my back as I leaned over the toilet.

That’s when I knew he loved me completely.

Here’s the truth about love: it isn’t created by fun dates or silly shared experiences or even deep desire.  Real love is unwavering when the other person is vomiting between sobs.  Lasting love wraps strength and security around real or imagined fears.  Authentic love is built on thousands upon thousands of moments that never make the highlight reel.

Our story isn’t epic because PB played his harmonica under my bedroom window, or because he carried me up Bascom Hill, or because he met me at the train station at midnight in a blizzard.

We have a love story because of what has taken place day after day in between those moments.

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.  It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.  1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (J.B. Phillips version)

Honey, you are my only one.

Take us out, JT.

“Only One” by James Taylor

Love Story: Puerto Rico

Episode #7

beachA few weeks after our engagement, I was scheduled to go to Puerto Rico with my dad and step-mom.  For some reason they thought it would be a nice idea to let me come along with them on their winter get-away.  Since I was a grown-up girl, they figured I would be low-maintenance.  They could do some sight-seeing and leave me to sunbathe by the pool.

It was extremely generous of my parents to share their vacation with me, and I was excited about going.  That is, until a sparkly diamond ring was securely on my finger.  The thought of leaving my brand new fiancé was more than I could bear.  I wanted to be with him every second of every minute of every day.  But, alas, the plane ticket was purchased so I had to leave the snowy, subzero midwest for the beautiful beaches of an island in the Caribbean.

I cried the whole time.

Well, not the whole time, but enough of the time that I put a real damper on the vacation.  I wrote love letters and sad poems while sitting by the pool.  I longed to talk to PB, but phone calls were out of the question.  Every beautiful sunset made me cry because he wasn’t with me.

The day we were to fly home, there was a huge blizzard that shut down O’Hare.  I was beside myself.  We got as far as Miami but couldn’t get a flight back to Chicago.  I begged my dad to get me home to my true love.  I’m sure he was just as anxious to bring the vacation to an end as I was.  He managed to find a flight to Kansas City where we waited on standby for another flight to Milwaukee.  Finally, we three bedraggled travelers boarded a train and headed west.  I called PB and explained the situation.  Between “I love you” and “I miss you”  I told him where the train was coming in (30 miles away) and when (midnight).  A little blizzard wasn’t going to stop him from getting to me.

In the middle of the night, the Amtrak pulled in to a quiet station.  Because we hadn’t planned on this route home, we didn’t have any winter coats with us.

The train stopped and the three of us stepped off with all our luggage.

Into a snow bank.

On the wrong side of the train.

We stood there, in our t-shirts and shorts, shivering as the length of the train zoomed by.

When the caboose finally passed, I looked up on the platform.  I could faintly see an outline of a handsome figure through the falling snow.  My rescuer.  I was so happy to finally see him after suffering through that long week in Puerto Rico.

So was my dad.

Love Story: The Edgewater

Episode #6

EdgewaterBy the time my ankle healed, PB and I were making plans for our future. There was no doubt — we were meant to be.

My mother’s diamond ring had been tucked away in a lockbox at the bank for several years.  When mom died, it was understood that I would have her ring someday.  So PB not only had to ask for my hand in marriage, but also for the ring to put on my finger.  He drove to my dad’s farm early one winter morning to ask for permission to marry me.  After having a man-to-man talk, the two of them went into town to get the ring.  PB waited in the lobby of the Citizen’s State Bank and soon my dad walked out of the vault holding a little white box.  There were tears streaming down his face.

On the night of December 23rd, PB planned a special date.  He wanted to propose at one of the nicest places in the city — The Edgewater.  When he called to make a reservation, they asked him if he would like a room.

“How nice, ” he thought, “this restaurant has private rooms for a quiet dinner for two.  That sounds romantic.”

“Sure, reserve me a room,” he said.

When he picked me up at my house, the snow was starting to fall.  It was a beautiful drive through downtown Madison.  He looked so handsome in his suit coat and a tie.  I was all dressed up and felt the excitement in the air.  We walked into The Edgewater and PB told the man we had a reservation.

The concierge handed us a key and gave us a room number.

I looked at the key with a confused frown.

I looked at the man with a confused frown.

Then I looked at PB with a confused frown.

“I made a reservation for dinner,” my date said, his face turning red.

“You made a reservation for a hotel room,” the man replied.

“This is a hotel???  I thought this was a restaurant with nice little rooms to eat dinner in…..”

The staff quickly found a table for two in the restaurant, right next to the window overlooking the lake.

I said “yes”.  To the proposal of marriage, not the room.

Love Story: Bascom Hill

Episode #5

bascomFollowing our trick-or-treat adventure, I was forced to hobble around on crutches for awhile.  Getting to most of my college classes was doable, but twice a week I had Economics 101 in a building at the top of Bascom Hill.  It was a fairly steep climb for a girl with torn ligaments in her ankle.

(As a side note: one day the professor started the class by writing the word “BOOKKEEPER” on the blackboard.  “This word,” he said in his Boston accent, “is the only word in the English language with three double letters.” It’s the only thing I remember from Econ 101.)  Back to the story.

I didn’t want to skip two weeks of classes since I was already having trouble keeping supply and demand straight.

Enter my knight in shining armor.

Or perhaps PB was feeling a little guilty about my injury.

Either way, he showed up at the bottom of Bascom Hill right on time twice a week and gave me a piggy-back ride to the top.  It seemed like a fitting penance for dumping me off his shoulders and onto the sidewalk on Halloween.

When he carried me up the hill on those November afternoons, I started to believe that he loved me.

As I sat in that lecture hall taking notes on the Cost-Benefit Principle of goods and services, I began to see the many benefits of PB’s good heart.  I started to believe that I loved him, too.

Love Story: Trick or Treat

Episode #4

trickAfter a year of long-distance person-to-person phone calls, PB and I decided to quit monkeying around and get serious.  We had known each other for four years, but never lived close enough to actually go out on a date.  So he left Kentucky and I left Michigan and we both landed in Madison, Wisconsin the summer of ’78.  Our relationship survived the long distances.  Things got serious.

Looking for any excuse to be together, we offered to take my nephews trick-or-treating that October.  The two boys were excited to have their cool aunt and her boyfriend take them around the neighborhood.  PB thought it would be more fun if we dressed up as well.  I got on his shoulders and my sister-in-law threw a big sheet over my head — we were a giant ghost.  The boys were pretty impressed with their cool aunt’s boyfriend and his fun ideas.

Half way down the block PB started saying things like, “It’s so hot under here” and “I can’t see where I’m going” and “You’re getting kind of heavy”.  I suggested ditching the fun idea.  The next moment is still a blur for me.  I tried to slide off his shoulders and he tried to let me down easy, but something went terribly wrong.  I heard a crunch in the midst of arms and legs and a tangle of bed linens and hard pavement.

An hour later, in the hospital emergency room, a nice nurse finished wrapping my colorful swollen ankle — the ligaments were badly torn.  She asked, “How did this happen?”  Wiping away tears of pain I replied, “I was getting off him and my foot got caught in the sheets.”

There was a moment of silence as we all processed what I said.  In an effort to explain further, PB said, “We were trick-or-treating.”  The nurse smiled and quickly discharged me.

It was a memorable date.  I’ve been wary of PB’s fun ideas ever since.

Love Story: Betty

Episode #3.

operatorFollowing PB’s shocking statement in my driveway, we kept in touch.  I graduated with the class of ’77 and left the farm for Michigan State University.  PB was in school at Asbury College in Kentucky.  The distance grew farther, but our hearts started growing closer.

Because he was a poor college student, and I was a less poor college student, we devised a system for making those long distance phone calls.  It went like this:

The phone would ring in my dorm room.

I would answer it.

The operator would say, “Person-to-person call for Betty.”

I would say, “Betty is not here right now.”

The operator would say, “Thank you.  The caller will try back later.”

Click.

Then I would call PB.

If my dad wondered about the hefty phone bills and long list of calls to KY, he never said anything.  Bless him.

Love Story: Someday

Episode #2

chevyThe tent was taken down and PB left on a bus headed north.  We wrote a flurry of letters back and forth across the miles, but, alas, adolescent infatuation didn’t survive the distance.  I discovered there were cute boys right in my own high school. He had cute girls after him in his own hometown.

One day PB called from the phone booth, ready for a long conversation with his pocket full of dimes.

“What have you been doing?”

“I went out with Dan the other night.”

“Dan…..your brother?”

“No.”

After that we didn’t talk, didn’t write, didn’t see each other for two years. He was mad.

During those years of silence, I began to pray for God to show me who I was going to marry.  I don’t know why.  It seemed important to me when I was a sophomore in high school to fervently seek His will concerning my future mate.  My thoughts often took me up north to the cute pastor’s son who played his harmonica outside my bedroom window.  PB had all the right qualities: 1) he believed in God, 2) he could sing, 3) he was cute.

One day, a letter arrived and the silence was broken.  He was going to be in the area and would like to stop by and say hello.  The fervent prayers picked up.  “Lord, if he’s the one You’ve picked out for me, make him say something about marriage when he comes.”  Lord have mercy.

He came and we spent the afternoon together.  When he got ready to leave, he started up his candy apple red 1969 Chevy Chevelle Malibu with a black vinyl top, and said, “Someday I’m going to marry you.”   Then he drove away.

I was 16 years old and I knew he was the one.