There! I thought with satisfaction, surveying a cleaner garage. Winter has a way of piling up stuff, but it was time to liberate the floor and fling open the cabinets. Spring also includes celebrating my honey’s birthday, so I had decided to combine a tidy garage with a happy birthday--it was all I could think to give him, which meant something important. It meant that we had survived the “accumulation stage”, a long and rocky road.
As I swept out the last cobwebbed corner, I thought about a season of unemployment years earlier, when we had exhausted our resources, our list of contacts, and our initiative. Like mountaineers gasping for air with the summit just behind the clouds, we had no idea how close we were to being delivered.
Then it came, the last proverbial straw; a certified “threat” from the electric company, delivered by a guy with a logo on his shirt, wearing a tool belt. With deep foreboding, I handed it to Dale at his desk. He slit open the envelope and starred at the contents. The red print bled through so that I could make out the numbers, even from the other side of the desk. I knew they could not be matched by what remained in our bank account. Our eyes met, searching for some inkling of hope and faith in the other, but instead, a terrifying realization overcame us both; we had nothing left. We were paupers, temporally and emotionally.
Then, the strangest thing happened. My husband fell forward, his forehead to his arms, and he wept. He wept and wept and wept. The Spirit waved over me, followed by a tidal wave of compassion.
All of a sudden I comprehended, like I never had before, the immense burden my husband carried being wholly responsible for the lives of six people.
That eye-opener established a new empathetic under-girding in my relationships with men. My claims upon their time, or evaluation of their performance in family roles or church callings, became much more liberal. I took care ever after, to express my sincere appreciation for what they do for me, for my family, and for others. I made a concerted effort to respect their many obligations and to lighten their load.
After remembering that experience and musing thus, I wrote this birthday wish for Dale:
“…you provided beautifully and at great strain and sacrifice through the decades, so that our children are raised and providing essentially for themselves now. You did it. They never went cold or hungry or felt deprived; quite the opposite... So on your birthday, I pray that God will bless you with continued joy and progress in your career, for your OWN sake, as you so richly deserve."
He was touched by that of course. And the surprise party I threw later than night didn't hurt.
But the tidy garage comforted him most.
“After all,” he said, “if worse comes to worse, at least we’ve got space now to hold a moving sale!”
Mona muses at Mona's Gospel Musings every Sunday. She is author of With Mine Own Hand: The Musical Account of Nephi.
Images from: Dreamstime