Those spoken words
It seems ridiculous, my talking about Christmas in April. However, while checking my bookcase for something to read, I found one by Gov. Mike Huckabee called “A Simple Christmas.” Mike sent this to me as a gift after I presented him with a scarf on his visit here last December.
I read this when first received, but remembered now that I’d put it down a few times to take care of our puppies. Somehow I had missed the section that spoke about how he, his wife Janet, and friends celebrated Christmas Eve by going out to eat Chinese food. I thought this impossible as I read those words, for my husband Don and I did something similar back in my Ambler, Pennsylvania, days.
This needs an explanation. Huckabee brought up the memory of those days when something happened that was and still is painful to think about. It began when we first arrived in Ambler just before my fifth son Danny arrived in November 1957. We’d moved from a tiny two-bedroom bungalow to a huge very old house with seven rooms — still one bathroom –a huge open third floor, a wonderful front porch and huge backyard.
Making it even better, we lived across the street from a Baptist Church. We became close friends to the pastor and his wife – I’ll call him Jim and her Jane. We had them join us on Christmas Eve when we always had takeout Chinese food. It became an annual event. This is why the memory of Huckabee’s Chinese Christmas Eve reminded me of ours.
There’s somewhere in the Bible that says, “many are called, but few are chosen.” I thought about that when my husband and I got to be close friends with the pastor Jim and wife Jane. While I don’t remember exactly what it was that happened, Jane let me know how unhappy she was being the wife of a minister of the gospel.
Jim had been an engineer with a salary more than twice what he was now, thus making Jane resent the changes in her and their two daughters lives. They’d given up not only the money but also a large beautiful home. Jane was a perfectionist. She hated the churches manse. To be honest, that manse made my house look like a hovel! But she was used to something she no longer had.
Making things worse, Jane had to go back to working as a secretary. Also, Jim should never have gone into the ministry. He would have been much better as a layperson working in his church. If I sound cruel, sorry, but when he preached you could hear the desperation in his voice. His words never really seemed to hit their mark, and the congregation never quite felt they’d received his message.
However, one thing Jim was good with was his one on one with those in trouble. This came to fore for me, especially when my life was changing dramatically. It was six years later when Don and I’d finally gotten to a place where I knew there had to be a change. I went teary-eyed across the street to talk to Jim to see if he could help me.
Jane was busy in the kitchen cleaning up after their meal, Jim off somewhere returning soon. I sat on a kitchen chair crying my eyes out. Suddenly, I realized that Jane was slamming dishes everywhere. I shut up and told her I was sorry to be a bother. She replied that she didn’t need to hear my problems. Suddenly I got very calm, and I knew what I was going to do.
My decision was I was going to leave my husband, take the boys somewhere far away and start a new life. I got up and spoke words I will never forget: “Jane, someday you will have a problem and not even God will be with you.” It was about two years later when in California where we moved that my mother called saying Jim had died. His car slammed into a bridge abutment.
There was no sign he’d even tried to put on his brakes. And even worse, a few months later their oldest daughter Linda was sitting addressing her wedding invitations when she fell to the floor dead of a heart attack at age 18. All I could think about was what I’d said to Jane, and how sorry I was. Words once spoken cannot be taken back, if only I could.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org