Chuck and I met on November 19, 1983 in Dearborn, Michigan—a suburb due west of Detroit. It was a blind date arranged by mutual friends and I was blind with excitement. Especially after meeting him.
When he came to the door, dark curly hair met by a beard trimmed into a Van Dyke, bright blue eyes arched above a broad handsome grin, I was smitten.
Love, at first sight, is how I remember it—and it’s proved itself with time. I still tell him I’ve never not loved him. And we always argue about it.
“How could you love me, you’d just met me!” His platform is solid by all general standards.
“Because from that point on my affection only grew. I’ve never not loved you!”
We began dating right away. Thankfully Chuck worked only a half hour away, splitting the distance between his home and mine. Thankfully, he made the choice to see me—instead of returning to his apartment shared with a friend and a guinea pig named Patches. Even after the long drive home each night, Chuck’s decision to head south at 5 p.m. the next day became a regular routine.
When Christmas Memories Hurt
Soon it was Christmastime, and in the long hours of our visits Chuck came up with a plan. A way to get know each other, a way to balance our growing affection with some tangible reality.
“Let’s talk about our memories and dreams, from Christmas past to Christmas present, and then to Christmas future,” he grinned with the confidence of a young man eager to woo a woman’s heart.
His idea, which was inviting and creative, fell like a lead balloon at my feet.
“No, I don’t want to discuss it,” was my definitive reply. “I don’t like talking about my past.” I felt confronted and put the kibosh on his whole idea. My words were fast and firm, but deep inside my heart quaked at the thought.
That’s a tangible reality at its best!
He had a lot to learn about me, but I wasn’t ready to baptize him with the fire of my intricate and intense history. I knew if I opened that door my tears would flow, my hands would shake and I’d be an utter mess. Not the presentation a girl wants her guy to see only a few weeks in.
He’d have every right to decide I was too much bother.
Chuck surprisingly honored my rejection, even though disappointed, and left the topic alone. Unbeknownst to him, that gentleness wooed my heart and gave me a measure of trust to build upon.
We were engaged and married by summertime.
Immersed in Emotional Turmoil
Our early days were tough on Chuck. He moved into a home I’d bought a few years back—to live with me and my mother—who was celebrating her first year of sobriety.
Surprisingly he took this all in stride. His family had a history of taking care of each other, where aunts and grandparents shared homes out of duty and devotion. He found our odd arrangement not only normal, but noble.
It became difficult to spare Chuck the reality of my emotions. And as providence would have it, his were the direct opposite.
I was verbal and expressive, sometimes explosive. He was quiet, contemplative, and irritatingly silent. We were the epitome of the saying “opposites attract.” But it was more than that, it was divine intervention.
His Love Made Him Stay
The more I pushed the less he moved. I was sure he’d leave but instead he stayed.
God’s plan for my past to leak out bit by emotional bit for my husband to take in with quiet, steady love allowed my hurts to be subdued, even wooed into doable, less intense portions.
As the years went by we celebrated many Christmases. Chuck learned more about my past. I told him the stories about receiving matching Christmas presents with my sister, who was four years older but we wore same size because of a brain tumor that took her life at the age of 11. Stories about living apart during the holidays while my parents contemplated divorce, which was short lived when, just as they reconciled, my father died of a sudden heart attack. Stories of raucous celebrations that often included the police, fueled by my mom’s alcoholism—which was miraculously healed just before we met.
His Faithfulness Brought Peace
Peace with my past came in the little pieces of daily life over a decade or two with a faithful man who believed I was worth the trouble—and that God was able. Chuck’s quiet love and prayers allowed the experiences that held too much power for too long soften over time and find their proper place.
The stories of my past haven’t changed, but my recollection now holds gentleness and love as each story has another moment of redemption here on earth that will find its fullness in the new life to come.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
This Christmas I’m going to rekindle Chuck’s request from our first Christmas and invite him to talk about our memories and dreams, from Christmas past to Christmas present, and then to Christmas future.
After 34 years of marriage, I think I’m finally ready!
Published on Growthtrac Magazine: Bah! to Christmas Memories by Jan Fallon