Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Horror Movies Begin

We bought the bed and breakfast Groupon a few months ago before the time change. We weren’t thinking of how early the days get dark in November. The Groupon restricted our one-night stay to begin on a Sunday - Thursday. We chose a Thursday night, leaving town after work.

We were due to arrive at Natchez Hills B&B between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. I had printed out a map and directions, but we figured we’d rely mainly upon the Google Maps navigator.

Laura programmed her iPhone for directions from my office to the B&B address in Hampshire, TN. Accompanied by the comforting voice of GPS Lady and by our own musical mixtapes of anniversaries past, we enjoyed the drive, even after getting stuck in inexplicable traffic outside of Columbia.

It was a straight shot down I-65 until we got to Columbia, where we picked up US 412. We traveled through town and into more rural areas. And then it was dark. And there were windy roads. And GPS Lady said, “ In a quarter mile, turn right on Taylor Store Road…turn left on Love Branch Road…turn right on Southpoint.   

And then more windy roads. Laura said, “Well this is in the boonies.” “Yeah,” I said, calmly and wisely.  I’m the wise one because I trust GPS Lady. More windy roads. And Laura said, “But there aren’t any signs…of any kind.” “Yeah.” And there was silence.

I’m sure that at this point, GPS Lady meant to break the silence with, “I’m sorry, folks; I got nothin’. I’m as lost as you are.” But she didn't. 

Finally our headlights shone upon a sign; it read “Pleasant Union Cemetery.” And GPS Lady said with all confidence, “You have reached your destination.”

Cue suspenseful music.

* * *

Rather than panicking, we resorted to laughing. I think that’s the proper response when you feel like you're in a horror movie. Looking at the iPhone, we saw that GPS Lady was right; we had reached the destination listed. But it wasn’t the destination Laura programmed in. Somehow the address changed….to a cemetery.

We re-programmed, and GPS Lady apparently got her bearings. In about 30 minutes, she led us to what seemed to be the right place. Unlit dark-colored signs, when discovered, helped us. And although the long driveway brought back that eerie feeling, we arrived at a row of cabins and what appeared to be a big house.

We got out of the car and knocked on the door of the house. No answer. We tried the door, and it was unlocked, so we went in. We waited a few seconds, and then Laura began, “Hello?! Hello?! Okay someone’s coming…I think. Hello?! Did you hear that? Hello?!”

I finally looked up the phone number for the place and called the reservation desk. We learned later that Melissa, my contact, was in Georgia, not right around the corner. She told us which cabin we were to stay in. She said that it should be unlocked.

We found the little building in the dark and eventually entered. Just then, the phone rang. It was Melissa. “I just wanted to make sure you were at the right bed and breakfast. Sometimes people make a wrong turn and end up at another place. Are you sure you’re in the right cabin?”
“Um, I guess I'm pretty sure…”

Cue music.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After the Break-Up

I still can’t find any clear documentation of the day that Laura dumped me. We had known each other for 10 years, and we had dated for three. In conversations, we had touched on potential marriage some day. We tried to explore, to anticipate, to assess the potential challenges of remarriage, parenting and step-parenting, and race. In addition, we each had our peculiar quirks and foibles. We had been talking. And then she broke up with me.

Last week I stumbled upon a document that narrowed down the dump date.  It had to be before September 15, 1994. Upon further investigation, I could see that Dump Day was sometime in mid to late August of that year. By early September, I was down in the lowlands of self-pity (I have the journals to prove it). I also knew that my own selfishness had brought on this breakup. At that point I could have related to the author (thanks Jeff) of “I Didn't Love My Wife When We Got Married.”

And then in my wallowing—and praying, can’t discount the praying—I discovered a hopeful possibility. My specific memory is unclear, but I am guessing that an answering machine message reminded me that we had scheduled a counseling session for September 16. When we made the appointment, we were still a couple, but clearly wanting help for our relationship. So just before the appointment date, using the pretense of that counseling session, I called Laura. 

Tony: I got a message to remind us that we have a counseling appointment on Friday. I just wanted to know what you wanted to do about it.

Laura: I don’t know why you’re asking. We’re broken up, and you don’t want to marry me, so what would be the point?

Tony: I do want to marry you.

Laura: What?

Tony: I do want to marry you.

Laura: Well, I want to marry you, too.

Tony: You do?

Laura: Yes.

We kept the counseling appointment, and barely two months later (after a slightly less lame second proposal), we were married.

And now we begin our 20th year of marriage. It has not been all smooth sailing. But, although I loved Laura when we got married, I love her more now. I hope I love her better.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sacramental Grace

Nine-year-old Damon told his parents that he was baptized today at our church. He was a little confused. There were four baptisms this morning—something for everyone: three babies were sprinkled; one adult was immersed. Damon was clearly fascinated, wandering out of our pew to get a closer look at the man getting dipped in a tub.

And then it was time for Communion/Eucharist/Lord’s Supper. Damon, Zoey, and I served. It was supposed to be just Damon and me. He kept asking me “What am I supposed to say?” “‘The body of Jesus,’” I said, “or ‘the blood of Jesus.’”

Once we were called up and were served the elements, we turned around and there was shy, 2-year-old Zoey standing with us in front of the whole congregation. She served with us. And Damon spoke grace, “the blood of Jesus,” to each person we served. He told us  later “I said it softly, but they all said ‘Thank you.’” Grace.