The pilgrims understood life is a long journey. It’s true for my wife Kathy and I. We’ve been married thirty-five years. Our journey has yielded a long-loved love.
Kathy and I were married in 1981. We had dark hair. I had crooked teeth. Now my hair is going gray (Kathy’s mysteriously remains dark). My teeth are straight. Our kids are grown up (and act that way). We have many grandkids. Life is good. We’re grateful.
We’ve come into this gratitude in different ways. On the whole, it’s been more challenging for Kathy to be married to me than I to her. She is the essence of kindness. I am often the embodiment of rudeness.
I knew little about love when I met Kathy. I was raised in an orderly German home. We were long on respect, short on tenderness. Kathy’s upbringing was bathed in love. Her home was all tenderness, lots of hugs and kisses. It threw me off at first. But I liked it. Over time, I grew to love it. I’ve become a hugger.
I’ve been an inventor all my life. Kathy has been a nester—or at least wanted to be. Just when she would finally feel we were settling in, I’d invent something. We’d move on. To Kathy’s everlasting credit, she always trusted me and flexed, following me into all sorts of pursuits. She’s courageous. A few of my impulses have worked out, except for the conversion van I bought while in seminary. Don’t know what I was thinking (probably wasn’t thinking). We had little money. Kathy held her tongue. I came to my senses, driving through the night to return the van to the dealership in Illinois. Not a proud moment.
When we needed health insurance, Kathy went to work. When I thought we needed money to pay for our daughter Jennifer’s wedding, Kathy informed me she has been secretly squirreling away money. I didn’t have to act like Father of The Bride.
When I lost my work in 2002, Kathy, without hesitation, found work. She assumed it would be in banking. It was in elementary education. What started as a job turned into a calling. Fourteen years later, Kathy faithfully goes to work, even though it’s often toil and trouble. As the days get darker and colder, she often dreads getting out our of warm bed to report to early morning bus duty. But she does it. She gets up early and stays up late doing reading reports. I doubt I could do it.
Kathy and I share a calling. We want to be difference makers. We want to help the church become a better version of herself, like the Puritans who crossed the Atlantic Ocean. They were grateful to leave, and grateful to arrive. They knew life is a long journey. One year in, most of the colony was dead. Only a few survived the first winter. The next fall, Governor William Bradford called for a harvest festival to give thanks.
I too give thanks this Thanksgiving—for Kathy, my “long-loved love,” as Madeleine L’Engle described her marriage to her husband Hugh Franklin. I close with her poem and hope you have a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.
TO A LONG-LOVED LOVE
We, who have seen the new moon grow old together,
Who have seen winter rime the fields and stones
As though it would claim earth and water forever,
We who have known the touch of flesh and the shape of bones
Know the old moon stretching its shadows across a whitened field
More beautiful than spring with all its spate of blooms;
What passion knowledge of tried flesh still yields,
What joy and comfort these familiar rooms.
In the moonless, lampless dark now of this bed
My body knows each line and curve of yours;
My fingers know the shape of limb and head:
As pure as mathematics ecstasy endures.
Blinded by night and love we share our passion,
Certain of burning flesh, of living bone:
So feels the sculptor in the moment of creation
Moving his hands across the uncut stone.
I know why a star gives light
Shining quietly in the night;
Arithmetic helps me unravel
The hours and years this light must travel
To penetrate our atmosphere.
I can count the craters on the moon
With telescopes to make them clear.
With delicate instruments I can measure
The secrets of barometric pressure.
And therefore I find it inexpressibly queer
That with my own soul I am out of tune,
And that I have not stumbled on the art
Of forecasting the weather of the heart.