Friday, August 1, 2008

Chemistry

by John D Ramsey

Over thirty years ago, I fell in love with a girl in my high school chemistry class. I waited outside the classroom door before school began hoping that she would show up early. She often did. Clyde was my chemistry lab partner. Celeste was her lab partner. Clyde was shy. Celeste was not shy. Clyde was smart. Celeste was smart enough to know she would get a better grade if Clyde was her lab partner. The switch was on. Mr. Hubert, the chemistry teacher, looked confused for a moment and then went about minding his business. I never thanked him for that.

Twenty-seven years ago, I married my high school chemistry partner, Lisa. We have had four children and three dogs. We have been more successful with children than with dogs. Our first child we named, Cara Michal, which means “joy, a little river.” We named our first dog, Raunchy. In retrospect, maybe we should have realized then that we were not dog people. Our second child was, Daniel Shane, which means, “God is my judge; God is gracious.” Our second dog really belonged to Daniel. It was an Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) named Sydney. She was a natural herder, but the UPS truck was not easy to herd. Sydney died trying. Our third child we named, Claire Maddison, which means “bright and shining warrior.” Our third dog was a Malamute we rescued from a puppy mill. We called her, Millie. We could not have a dog when we moved to Minnesota, but Gabrielle Sophia, which means “messenger of God’s wisdom”, was born there eighteen years after our first baby girl was born in Merriam, Kansas.

In twenty-seven years, I learned a little bit about marriage and family. I learned that children take your words literally. When Daniel was about three, he deliberately scuffed up his left knee because I told him he did a good job scuffing up his right. Ouch!

I learned that if you want a photograph of a child with a sparkle in her eye, you first do something to make her cry and then do something to make her laugh. Cara taught me that as well as "Fuzzy Pickle!" whatever that means.

I learned that children mimic your values. Claire, as a baby, kept taking my pencil whenever I would lay it down. I finally snatched it back from her, saying firmly, “Mine!” Claire immediately grabbed the pencil back from my hand and said her first intelligible word . . . “Mine!” Oops!

Gabby has taught me that if you want your children to say, “Please,” and “thank you,” they need to hear you say “please,” and “thank you.” Thank you, Gabby.

I learned that every stage of child development is both precious and fleeting. My two oldest kids are adults living in far away cities. My two young ones are nearly six and eleven. I celebrate their growth and yet I miss how they used to be.

I have learned a few things about the marriage relationship, too. I have learned that it is good to talk about money and budgets often, but avoid talking about money at home. Find a comfortable place, and keep the discussions positive.

Keep the other’s secrets.

Try to eat at least one meal a day with the whole family around the dining room table. Talk openly about your values during mealtime.

Time spent together is more valuable than your “alone time.” Trust me.

Do not read popular books on marriage. Most of them should be titled, How to Manipulate Your Spouse for Personal Gratification. Whatever their formula, they usually tell you that you will get a better outcome by following instructions. If a particular outcome is the goal, then manipulation is the most efficient tool. Cut to the chase. That is behavioral psychology to be sure, but it is too shallow to last a lifetime. Do not go there; it will leave you selfish and disappointed.

Here is the truth: Marriage is not about you; it is not about the two of you; it is only about your spouse. Marriage is not give and take. It is give and forgive. Lisa taught me that.

Paul gave all the marriage advice a husband will ever need, including, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . ” Ephesians 5:25 (NIV). If you do not understand what Christ did for the church, if you have not experienced it personally, then back up and start there. If you think you understand Christ’s love for his church as it is mirrored in a husbands love for his wife, back up and contemplate it again, and again, and again.

Lisa,

When I think about how quickly these twenty-seven years have passed. I can only say, Thank you. I love you. After twenty-seven years, I enjoy our time together all the more.

A Shakespearian sonnet reminds me of you. I hope you do not mind.

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


Happy Anniversary, Honey.

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