In March of 1966, I was almost 21. I had just finished my stint at Diablo Valley College, and Vietnam was raging. Facing the draft, and not wanting to “Be all I could Be” in the Army, I had joined the Air Force. My day to leave for boot camp was approaching at jet speed.
Nelda’n I had been dating for a little over 2 years. This particular day started as one of those ordinary, “just-waiting-for-the-future-to-happen” days that turned into a momentous, “my-life-will-NEVER-be-the-same-again” kind-a day.
I was on my way to Uncle Bill’s house. He was Nelda’s REAL Uncle, but EVERYBODY in his life called him “Uncle Bill.” People(even adults) at church, kids at school, (he was everybody’s favorite bus driver) all my brothers and sisters, and I think even my parents called him that. It was just #WhoHeWas! I’m not sure it wasn’t written on his birth certificate!
But I digress… As I was coming down their narrow one-way street (Nelda was at their house) a boy riding a bike darted out from a garage that backed up to the curb. I hit him and broke his leg.
I called the AF recruiter and they grounded my jet plane until any legal ramifications got settled.
Long Story Short, my new enlistment day was May 19th. 5 things happened in those next rapidly-gone 30 days.
• The mother of the boy said: “I’ve told him a million times not to do that…” So – no legal issues.
• Nelda’n I saw each other EVERY DAY!
• She told me she Loved me!!!
• We got engaged!!
• Every day, for 30 days, I took her a (stolen) rose. Spring was in the air (and in my heart) so I would stop at her neighbors’ yards on the way to her house and “steal” a rose.
Before I knocked on her door, though, I would pick and twist off every thorn on the stem of the rose. Why? Because I’m a romantic fool, I guess – but perhaps as a subtle promise to keep her life thorn-free forever.
Fast Forward – 30 days flew by, Oakland,Ca swearing in, 4 week boot camp, 5 month tech school, too-quick one-week Mom’nDad’nNelda visit to Texas in August, graduation, home on leave, married, “play house” for 30 days, stationed to Japan for 2 years. Nelda moved in with Mom’nDad and we all lived happily ever after. End of fairy tale.
It took another 45 years for me to understand the significance of the “THORNLESS ROSES!”
Super-Fast-Forward– Texas in August, 2013. Nelda’n I had driven to Oklahoma for her 50th high school reunion. As we left her brother’s home, headed for California, we (spelled *I*) was having a thorny morning. After about a hundred miles of silence, I realized I didn’t want to be like that for the next 1550 miles. So we (again-spelled *I*) started talking. I’ve written about that day at least once before – HERE.
One of the reasons WE LOVE ROAD TRIPS is because we’re locked together in the car, so we
have to / GET TO talk!
We drove another 400+/- miles that day. We talked about things (thorny things) that we’d needed to discuss 40 years before. We talked about Love and Respect, Fears and Intimacy, secrets and dreams It was another one of those “just-waiting-for-the-future-to-happen” days that turned into a momentous, “our-life-will-NEVER-be-the-same-again” kinda-day.
It’s one thing to pick the thorns off a rose stem, or protect Ur loved ones from the thorns in their lives for a day or two. (or 30) But
THE ROSE GARDEN OF LIFE IS FULL OF THORNS!
If U don’t learn to deal with the thorns,
the beauty of the roses fades and disappears.
YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER
The rest of the trip was warm, friendly and more intimate. We’re learning to talk about the thorns when life gets prickley. The sooner the better. Our ROSES are more beautiful that way.
It’s not possible to twist the thorns off the stems in Ur life, throw them out the window and go merrily on Ur way. The wind blows them back in the rear window and they stick U in the butt at the most inopportune moments.
Lest I paint a Rose-tinted picture of our journey from that Texas highway to where we are now, let me assure U – it’s not all been rose gardens and tea parties. Some of the thorns had been set deep. A few had festered and the infection needed outside treatment. (mainly in me) But our relationship, our marriage, our family, the LIFE we have now is well worth every sting.
In fact, some of the scars from the past few months are “hanging on our walls” as trophies.
The BEST way to a full life is to embrace it, THORNS’n ALL
Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.
—James 1:2–3 amp