Giving it some gas

Terry and I were 29 when we got married. I was thinking about it this week because we’re celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary on Saturday. He’s taking me to one of Madison’s premiere restaurants which I think is really nice.

May 23, 1981. I thought I was fat.

May 23, 1981. I thought I was fat.

When we set out on our honeymoon on May 23, 1981, we had only the first night’s lodging arranged: a beautiful restored hotel called the Calumet in Pipestone, MN. That was our splurge. We were broke. My folks had given us a total of $500 which I blew on my dress. It was a designer dress that sold for over $2,000 at the time, but I saw a picture of it in a magazine and found an incredible seamstress that reproduced it exactly. We had saved money on the rehearsal dinner by grilling steaks at our new house and holding the meager reception at the local V.F.W. hall, coughing up a few bucks for a pretty good 3-piece dance band. It was a cash bar.

So, traveling on a hope and a prayer and a AAA travel book, our aim was to find motels that charged less than $17 a night. Found one that second night on the road. The floor was definitely listing a bit and I was just grateful that the bathroom was downhill in case I had to get up in the night. Each nightstand bore a ceramic rooster lamp with a yellowed shade growing out of the rooster’s head. Really uptown.

But our aim was not lodging as much as making it to Mackinac Island, a popular resort island in northern Michigan and the setting for several movies. It had been recommended to us by friends who were wealthy and forgot that we were not. We couldn’t afford to stay on the island, so we stayed at the Pontiac Motor Inn on the mainland and rode the ferry across the strait first thing in the morning. It was raining off and on and pretty chilly, but probably pretty normal weather for late May in Michigan’s northern reaches.

Now, motorized vehicles are verboten on Mackinac Island. Horses and bicycles are the mode of the transportation. That only presented an opportunity for Terry who grew up on a farm and had a horse cart and pony which pulled him around the place and in parades in his hometown. So we found our way to the livery stable.

Terry & Willie

Terry & Willie

I was somewhat less enthused. Horses had always scared me just because they’re so big, but he kept assuring me that everything would be fine. And the stable hand sized us up and rented us a cart and a horse that he assured us would be safe. I cringed a bit when he told us that the animal was a former racehorse and had found retirement in the tourist business.

But Willie proved to be a great guide for our tour. He had pulled many a cart around that island and he knew the turns to take with little direction from Terry. We were covered in a nice blanket to keep us warm and we enjoyed the relative quiet of the island which was still in the off-season so it was not crowded with tourists.

Mackinac Island is relatively flat. Not many hills. But it was on a slight incline that we began to get a whiff of Willie’s age. He had to strain a bit to pull the cart and passengers up that slight grade. Now, remember, we were young and slim so we weren’t an issue. But Willie had seen his better days so he had to strain a bit to get up that little hill. We didn’t realize he was putting any effort into it at all until we got a sniff of methane. Willie had to put a little gas into it. I don’t recall any sound effects. Just odor. Perhaps Willie was deliberately holding back on the reports in hopes of being more discreet for his newly-married passengers. But Terry and I looked at each other at the same time and knew that the fragrance wafting past and through our noses hadn’t come from either one of us. Willie may have thought he was getting away with it, but he didn’t.

Interestingly, the scent didn’t dissipate. Perhaps the low ceiling of clouds and rain held it steady. Perhaps Willie just decided it wasn’t worth holding it in anymore. After all, we were almost back and he had done a yeoman’s job of showing us the back roads of the island. But for me, the most memorable event of our tour was Willie’s gaseous emissions.

Willie from our view

Willie from our view

Yes, I was reminded of all of this and other details because this is our anniversary week. But I must confess another cause for my musings. After I fell a few weeks ago and found myself struggling to even lift my right leg to get into bed, I realized that I had to give it a little gas myself. I tried to get myself up to the bed before Terry got there. On the one hand, it would have been nice to have some assistance lifting that leg, getting it under the covers, and setting it on top of a wrapped chunk of ice without the accompanying excruciating pain. But it hurt to even touch it so I decided it was better for me to just muster the strength to get it up there and arranged. It was then that I realized Willie and I had something in common. Problem is that Willie was much more discreet. I couldn’t just quietly emit and then look at any of the three cats and blame it on them. No sirree, my gaseous detonations have been audible. There has been no question as to the source.

Willie was in his retirement years. So am I. It just takes a little more effort to get some things done.

That’s probably one of the reasons that it’s important for couples to commit to one another for the long haul. It’s always important, regardless of how many years we’ve been together, to show respect for one another; to demonstrate loving kindness; to possess and exhibit good manners and courtesy to the one who has vowed to love us in sickness and in health. But all of that takes years of practice and years of forgiveness.

It seems like a small thing to be exonerated for something we cannot help regardless of how much we try. But when you’re not only embarrassed, but in pain, knowing I was forgiven or even that my husband could find humor in it has helped me in my healing.

Willie was a racehorse. I was never that, but I, too, have experienced days and years when I felt like I could take on almost any challenge, any race and win it. I still feel that way. But I know that I have to sometimes give it just a little more gas.

“…for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:10b-11a, 24

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