Archives for February 2005

THE BIG SNOW

Somehow I made it through my message Sunday morning, February 13th. I was desperately ill. Sinus infection coupled with either bronchitis or pneumonia had me in an awful state. We cancelled our evening small group study. This has been a punishing winter. I was unable to do more than rise from the bed for a few minutes at a time.
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THE MOCCASIN LETTER

I could not have known that July 4, 1955, would be one of the most important dates
in my life. It was a Monday. My Navy buddy, Leroy, and I had been invited to a Sunday
school picnic. The Community Baptist Church of Deerfield, Illinois, was meeting at a
community park for its annual picnic. “Just bring yourselves, there’ll be plenty of food,”
we were assured by the ladies of the church. That’s what we did.

I had found the little mission church on a Sunday night when, as an infant Christian, I knew I belonged in church. “We preach Christ, Crucified, Risen and Coming Again,” the advertising flyer of the church said. Someone had placed it on the bulletin board of the Navy Ship Service store. That little flyer led me to the church and acquaintance with its people, though I usually went into Chicago to church with another buddy on Sundays.

About eleven o’clock that holiday morning we found the park, left the car in the parking lot and began to mingle with the people. After an hour or two of playing softball with a few of the very young children there and a couple of dads, we were called to eat. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a pretty brunette who was playing with her little brother and generally looking after him. She looked very young. Later in the afternoon the girl’s mother approached the pastor of the church and suggested that “these young people be introduced.” We were. The young lady was named “Jane Shipley.” She lived in the nearby city of Evanston.

One thing led to another and I found myself inviting Jane and “anyone who wanted to go” to the upcoming Youth For Christ meeting in Chicago the following Saturday. Jane and the other young people there accepted our invitation and Jane’s mother assured us they could go. Leroy and I were to drive, in my little black Chevrolet, to Evanston, pick up the young people, three girls, and proceed on to Chicago for the youth meeting. I was secretly interested in this pretty but very young girl but hardly dared admit it, even to myself. Nevertheless, we went. We all had a good time and that get-acquainted trip landed Leroy and me an invitation to return to Jane’s home the following day for Sunday school and church and the noon dinner.

TOO YOUNG?

Jane was just sixteen and later I endured some good-natured kidding from my Navy buddies who accused me of “robbing the cradle.” I brushed aside their remarks as mere envy. I was uneasy, though, for I was afraid her parents would call a halt to things if they suspected I was interested in a serious relationship. All the young people from time to time reminded each other that “Ken was twenty-one.” The way they referred to it made me think of my sophomore course in high school English. We had studied “The Ancient Mariner.”

What I didn’t know was that Jane had put her girl friends on notice that she was interested in me and that they were to “stay away!” At the speed with which our relationship would develop, it was probably providential that I didn’t know.

BACK TROUBLE

Not many days had passed when Jane began to develop serious back pain. At that point I learned that back trouble was not new to her. She wore a lift in one shoe to compensate for a spinal curvature. She had previously been under the care of an osteopathic physician. She returned to South Bend, Indiana, about one hundred miles away, for his further evaluation. She was ordered to check into the Osteopathic Hospital there for treatment. Jane’s parents had lived in the greater South Bend area before coming to Evanston, Illinois, so it was natural for them to quickly arrange the hospital stay for her. She was to be there about three days. She would be “in traction,” whatever that was. Alternately I felt sorry for her with her back trouble and for myself, knowing I would not see her for awhile. We had spent several Sundays together at her church and home. She played the piano and we sang hymns together. It was getting to be a habit I liked. I wondered if any feelings she might have for me would “cool” while she was away. What could I do about it?

In the meantime, I had my duties to perform at the Naval Air Station at nearby Glenview. I was what the Navy called a “yeoman.” A yeoman is assigned to do office work either ashore or on board ship. The sailors with hard physical work to do referred to we yeomen by a slur that must not be mentioned here. Usually this was done out of our hearing inasmuch as we had access to their personnel files which placed some of them at our mercy. The result was a standoff with we yeomen having the easier work and the others disguising their disdain for us as best they could.

During those days of my early acquaintance with Jane, I am afraid my office efficiency was not up to par. I found myself thinking of her a great deal of the time. Now that her back trouble was a major factor, I was all the more concerned. I mused from time to time, “How could one so pretty have a bad back?”

HOSPITAL CALL

The day came when Jane was to make the trip, with her mother, to South Bend for, her hospital treatment. Other members of her family lived in that northern Indiana area and would support her mother and other family members while she was there.

After a day or two of her treatment I inquired about coming to see her. Somehow I got a day off from my Navy duties and permission to be out of the area. Jane’s family seemed to have no objection to my coming to see her. I wasn’t sure I could find the place, but I certainly was bent on trying.

I arrived in South Bend, found a parking place near the hospital and hurried in to see Jane. It was a wonderful summer afternoon and I struggled to contain my joy at the prospect of seeing her. I wanted to run across the deeply shaded street and through the parking lot. At the same time, I dreaded seeing her “in traction.” What could it mean?

As I recall, her room was on the second floor of the small brick building. I surveyed my appearance quickly and stepped quietly into the room which, I think, was a rather large ward, but Jane was either the only person there or the only one I really saw. I slipped up to her bedside expecting to see her in great pain or in a very difficult circumstance of some kind. Instead, I was greeted by her bright eyes and wonderful smile. She left no doubt that I was welcome. As she lay in her bed in a white gown I saw that she was stretched full length and was under covers from the waist down except for her feet. There were devices of some sort attached to both her feet and metal weights hung over the side of the bed. “Oh,” I thought, “That’s what “˜traction’ is!” Before I could ask her if it hurt, she began talking to me in a very friendly and disarming manner, complete with a touch of embarrassment.

At this point I would like to say I handed her a gift or a bouquet of flowers but I am sure I didn’t. My Navy salary after taxes and small amount deducted for a savings bond was about $80 per month. I worked after office hours in Glenview at the Kroger store there to pay for my car and other personal expenses. Also, looking back on the event, I probably did not know enough about hospital protocol at the time to even be embarrassed that I could not bring a gift.

We talked for awhile as I nervously contemplated that a nurse would soon ask me to leave if it looked like I was going to overstay my welcome. All too quickly the time came when I knew my acceptability in the room was reaching an end. I said my goodbye as I reached to take Jane’s hand in mine. Her dancing eyes and warm smile reassured me that my trip was not a wasted one. I walked away and back to my car, my heart swimming with delight!
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