Thursday, August 16, 2012

Scott and Kristie: The early days

Judges 14:1-2 (NIV)

Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”
I wrote about my relationship about my wife on the occasion of our tenth anniversary in June. I did not include many details about our courtship or engagement (in large part because the proposal itself was remarkably unspectacular), but I can assure you at no point did I look up my parents and demand them get Kristie for me as my wife. Even if I’d been so bold, I’m reasonably sure they wouldn’t have helped. I can recall, on more than one occasion, happening upon my parents in some sort of hug or other friendly situation and my dad saying something to the effect of, “I got mine, you go get your own.”

I culled these verses from a longer passage (through verse 19) about Samson’s betrothal and marriage to his first wife. The selection concludes with the cheerful tale of Samson — filled with the spirit of the Lord — slaughtering 30 men and stripping their clothes in order to make good on a wager he’d made with his rather large wedding party, all set in motion by his sneaky, plotting wife. It is not the Bible’s most romantic love story.

But the first two verses made me think about the very early days of my relationship with the woman who would become my wife. We met right at the beginning of her freshman year of college and started dating about a month later. I met her family shortly thereafter when a few of us actually stayed at her house during a college band tour that happened to run through her hometown. Sometimes it still boggles the mind that her brother was just four and a half years old then. Now Uncle Kyle is 18 and starting college, and Max is almost four and a half.

Coe College Homecoming, Oct. 24, 1998.
Earliest known photo of us as a couple.
Kristie did not meet my family until the end of February when my parents and siblings came out for the annual college jazz festival. When we were all together last week I heard her tell my sister she recognized them as Hollands from a distance simply because of how they walked. We had dinner, took in some great live music and, well, I don’t actually remember a lot of specifics about the rest of the weekend.

In the spring, my dad met Kristie’s mom for the first time. I assume her dad was around, I just can’t recall. Band members stayed on campus to play for graduation and moved out later that day. I believe we were left alone briefly to say what seemed an incredibly difficult goodbye (I visited on her birthday about three weeks later), and I imagine there was some brief cross parental conversation, though I doubt either could repeat any specifics. After all, it was a two-minute chat more than 13 years ago.

What I do remember is driving all the way back to the suburbs that day with my dad, about a four-and-a-half-hour trip. I’m not sure exactly how it came up, but I’ll never forget where we were (near the Mobil station on the west edge of Marengo, Ill.) when he somewhat awkwardly asked about the seriousness of my relationship with Kristie. If his question wasn’t awkward, my answer certainly was. I did not, for whatever reason, tip my hand. The truth is I was head over heels in love, utterly convinced she was the girl I would one day marry and not entirely sure how well I would function without seeing her every day. What I actually said was more along the lines of I expected we’d still be dating come Labor Day.

Now, I think about what it must have been like to be my dad in that situation. During the school year we only saw each other once every couple of months. I wasn’t great about calling home, and when I did I usually spent most of the time talking to my mom. I don’t recall Pops being a heavy email user in the late 1990s — though now we have desks ten feet away from each other and frequently use email or chat software to communicate — and so I imagine it was somewhat of a mental adventure for him to have all that uninterrupted time with me.

Spring 1999. A much better picture of us, except for my hair.
I am pretty sure I changed an awful lot from the day they dropped me off at Coe to the end of my sophomore year. A lot of that was on my own, but having Kristie enter my life and become the center of my world over the course of seven or eight months must have led to a noticeable evolution, especially to my parents. If we don’t talk about feelings much now we certainly didn’t dig deep then. I wonder how many dozens of questions must have been circling in his brain just waiting to spill from his mouth if only he could put them to words. Probably the same number as I was fearing he’d ask, for then I’d be the one who would need to turn thoughts into coherent sentences.

I could go on at great length about how Kristie and I developed relationships with each other’s families, as well as how the Hollands and Workmans interact with each other. I may be so inspired eventually, but for now it should be enough to say we both are incredibly lucky to have such strong in-law relationships and also that our parents consider each other good friends. I know enough folks who have not been so blessed, which helps me to not take my own situation for granted.

Watching as our boys some day fall in love and choose life partners and perhaps become parents is going to be an incredible experience. I am not in the habit of praying for their future spouses, but I do think that’s a very nice idea. Part of what makes Kristie and I work so well as a couple is the life experiences we had before we met and our ability to communicate about not just how we think but what shaped us into the people we’ve become, including our evolution over the last (almost) 14 years.

In that light, part of the reason I work hard at having a good marriage is so it may serve as a good foundation and example for our boys for when they mature and enter their own serious relationships, so they can understand what it takes to be good husbands and fathers. It’s almost like an investment for them, their future spouses and our future grandchildren.

Of course, I realize each boy may come up with their own idea of what makes for a fulfilling adulthood and it’s easy to see where none of them would choose to follow directly in our footsteps. I also realize I have years and years of other issues to confront before I worry about things of this nature. I just know how much my life has improved because of my relationship with Kristie and how much the experience of fatherhood has served to make me whole. I love my kids and I want them to be able to experience the wonderful things that enrich my existence.

I realize none of those things are in my power to control, so I do what I can and pray about the rest. So far, it’s working out all right.

A prayer for August 16:

Lord, I thank you for the blessings of a long and fruitful partnership with my wife. I am also grateful for the many ways I have been able to learn about positive relationships, and pray you give us the strength to do what it takes to keep our union strong. I want to be the best husband I can be, and I also want to set a good example for our children so they may one day be strong husbands and fathers. God, this family is both a blessing and a responsibility, and we could not continue to be what we have become without your constant influence. Please keep watch over us as we navigate life together. Amen.

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