The Changing Seasons... A Love Story
"The Times They are a-Changin'"
Sometimes we're given a very special gift. When we least expect it, and probably most need it we are blessed with the understanding that our spouse is a wondrous miracle bestowed upon the least worthy of individuals we know. Gratitude is the natural result of this realization. It lasts as long as it is allowed to last.
Sifting back through the memories and details that led to life as we currently live it can be an experience as moving as the great love stories of movie history. This happened to one man one night in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He woke to the life-altering understanding that though their lives were and are changing, the current "Mr. and Mrs." was and is a wonderful and constantly evolving relationship. It began as unexpectedly as each surprising thing that has come along daily.
His is the story of a man who likes outdoor adventures. He didn't as a boy. Camping experiences seemed to be bad from the beginning for him. Camp Titan in the San Bernardino mountains was only three weeks of humiliating swimming, archery and eating experiences with kids from all over Southern California for this boy. He wrote letters home on that trip-- lots of them. He was the boy in the song who wrote letters to mother and father from "Camp Granada". Take me home! His is the story of divorced parents, troubled older siblings, war-torn country and confusion. His is the story of imagined situations, worlds and glory. His is the story of family loss and grief; of extreme successes and extreme failures. His is the story of baseball dreams and teenage hormones.
His is the story of high school triumphs and college failures. He thought he was cut out for the moon, and found himself unable to obtain orbit. The "splashdown" wasn't soft. His was a life of self-reliance and shaky self-confidence. He was just a boy among the boys, and just another man among the men. His is the story of unexpected difficulties and the failure to overcome them; then of crying out from his knees to God for help and guidance, followed by moving on into the unknown with less than the faith of a mustard seed. He is the man who endlessly loved and appreciated women like his mother, and who couldn't have caught the eye of one if she were tied to the tracks in the path of an east-bound freight train.
Hers is the story of a woman who likes outdoor adventures. She didn't do much camping as a little girl. She has memories of beloved grandparents in rare outdoor settings, but little in the way of camping beyond the backyard jungle at Grandma's house. She read then; a lot. She read stories of Tarzan and of Allan Quatermain. She read her adventure tales, and lived them over and over again in her own room and yard. She read the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and solved them all. Her imagination was limitless; and there was no ceiling to her goals. She imagined great things, great adventures with great men, and a great future. Hers is the story of the oldest child of divorced parents, war-torn country and confusion. Hers is the story of fairytale dreams and teenage hormones.
Hers is the story of educational success and honors at every level. She broke records and set bars. She had parents and teachers in awe of her talent and imagination, and predicting greatness. The sky was the limit, if there was a limit at all in her life. Hers is the story of "life with father", step-mom, and half-siblings in a bunk-bed community of family and pets, all constantly in motion. Hers is the story of responsibility and of longing. She is the woman who endlessly loved her father and families, and yet couldn't have stayed in the "three-ring circus"/home of her youth one day longer than she did.
Theirs is the story of a growing friendship and attraction. Of college classes together side-by-side, and of field trips for insect collecting in the hills of Southern California. They shared rainy hours under the shelter of school halls, sipping hot chocolate and talking about school, family and travel. He liked her smile and the way her cheeks were always rosy, and that hasn't changed to the present day. She lit a cupcake in the classroom on his 21st birthday. They shared a classroom table, and her popularity afforded him much more than a little prestige with his peers; but unfortunately, none with the professor.
The two worked the L.A. County Fair of 1982. She sold George Sumner artwork in the Fine Arts building (some of his work is on the walls of their home); he volunteered at a forestry enclave in bucksaw demonstrations, and helping children plant pine seedlings in milk cartons. She walked over to see him there one evening having seen his yellow truck in the parking lot, and it changed the direction of "his plans... for her life." Neither would have predicted then that a quarter of a century later they would be leading their grandchildren around the fair; but if either of them had been considering it at that time, it would have been him.
He kissed her first on the porch of the house she grew up in. The trees in the corner yard draped over the house like a "fantastic Disney canopy". There was no pixie dust, and not a single fairy or firefly; but the experience was magical. He could feel her father's eyes burning down on them like a heavy weight. He would remember that night well some twenty-five years later as he stood under the canopy of trees, staring at the porch, and listening to the mourning from within the house at the passing of her father. He remembered laying on the grass with her in the spot he now occupied, talking about the future and watching her father work on his car. He was a good man, strong, honorable in his military history, who had taken care of his children.
When school passed he wrote her letters and waited impatiently for the return on perfumed stationery. In those "pre-cell phone" days he called her from pay phones to plan a movie or just to impress her with an update on his firefighting experiences. He wore his "Nomex" and fire boots to see her at work once... and what an impression that made. She was beautiful, dressed nicely for the professional atmosphere. He walked in and changed the atmosphere right away. Then he changed his clothes in the mall restroom for their date. That day as every day, she wore colorful clothes, and she always out-shined them. They watched a movie and enjoyed the newest sensation... "frozen yogurt". There was no commitment between them. She could have had anything or anyone she wanted.
Theirs is the story of impatience and change. He constantly looked for some better place to work or some greener grass to live on. He found a job in his beloved Wind River Mountains and jumped at the opportunity. He packed his life of possessions in the back of a Datsun pickup truck, and prepared to leave California. His family held a "going away barbecue" and prepared to see him off when a phone call came that changed his life. It was She who could have had anything she wanted. She could have had the moon and the stars, and her choice of George Baileys to lasso them. She could have travelled to distant paradises to study butterfly migrations; or she could have been famous for leading the latest archaeological discovery of her time. Instead, she chose to go with him. She chose to begin a life searching for someplace where the two of them belonged together. He was happier than he remembered ever being, but unsure of being responsible for someone else. And so they left together on a continuing adventure of longer than twenty-seven years thus far.
Events along this their great adventure are too numerous to pay respect to properly within the confines of this account. There are so many memories of children and laughter, surprise and awe. Quiet times alone in the rain surrounded by the red rock of a Utah canyon campground, or the loud music at history-repeating concerts. Memories of diapers and dogs; hotels and tents; county fairs and campfire church services; dances and hospital rooms; worship and sorrow. All of the memories are of the two together. Their lives after Earth will be very different, and the relationship will have changed somewhat. God will be the center of what is now a "self-centered world". However, as he sits by the campfire under the dark shadows of the pines and the aspens watching the fire-glow dance on her cheeks, on this their last fishing/camping trip of their 27th season together, he realizes that the many minutes of the many days and years that have already gone by are each a building block for the next coming adventure. The next story is always yet to unfold in this exciting tale of the two unlikely companions who set out together on a journey into the unknown many years ago.
The voyage continues fueled by a chain-reaction that started many years past in a college classroom between two friends. And the chain reaction breathes a fire...
And the fire burns hotter.
More About Love:
- Reflections on Love and Sacrifice
What is Love, really? It's our ability to value another life above our own.