remember the first time I saw her as if it was today. Gord Koppin and I were waiting to cross a
busy street on Wheaton College’s campus, just after a quick breakfast, which
had followed a 6500 yard distance workout in the pool at 6:00 am. It was cold, icy and sleeting, as it can only
be in a Chicago winter. There were
numerous, deep and dirty slush puddles lying on top of treacherous ice, covering
the sidewalks and street.
|Blanchard Hall, Wheaton, Illnoise|
and I stood there, three girls came out of McManis dormitory walking toward
us. One of the girls was noticeably
taller than the other two. She was
dressed in a purple miniskirt with matching tights. She wore a tight turtle neck sweater under a
navy blue pea coat and sported three inch platform wedgie shoes. While her outfit made for an alluring
package, to be sure, it was the legs that got me. They had to be nine feet long.
that girl in the middle?” I asked Gord.
name is Lynne Hayes,” he said. “ She’s
in my biology class.”
|"She's got legs...."|
out those legs, Gord! I think I am going
to ask her for a date.”
got to be kidding, she is a Clysdale, Mike.
She’s at least six feet tall!”
This coming from someone who was five feet six on a good day.
care. I am going to ask her out.”
it happened. She slipped. Her feet flew out from under her and she
plopped down squarely on her bottom in a nasty slush puddle. Her skirt flew up around her waist and her
coat and sweater were soaked with the icy street water.
I then did what all gentlemen would do in such a situation. We joined everyone else in laughing our heads
off at this poor klutz of a girl, who immediately began to cry. Her two friends glared at everyone, helped
her to her feet, and guided her unsteady walk back into the dorm for a change
night I called her up and asked her out to see The Longest Day to be shown in
the chapel on Saturday, February 21, 1970. Surprisingly, she accepted my
invitation. There was an odd look that came over her face when she answered the
door for our date. I could not figure
out why. Many years later I learned that
she thought she had a date with Scott Bolander, a campus king, and was the envy
of the other girls for having landed such a catch, until I showed up, which
accounts for her puzzled facial expression and the many giggles I heard from
behind the girl’s dormitory door as we walked to the chapel.
the beginning of our nearly 43 year romance.
We continued to date through graduation, got engaged our senior year and
made plans to get married, once I got into graduate or law school. Lynne got a job teaching English in Kokomo and
I worked for the street department as a fulltime trash man on the back of a
packer truck and part time dog catcher for the city. We lived in separate apartments while I tried
to sort out my life after college.
I remember a year later sitting on top of a
roof in the hot sun laying asphalt shingles when she drove up in her car with
an envelope in her hand. “It is from the
law school. Want me to read it?” “Sure,” I said. To my astonishment, I had gotten in.
We got married in June.
tell you that we went on a wonderful honeymoon, following the wedding, and
started upon a happy married life. But
that would be a lie. I remember driving
back to Kokomo from Detroit in my 1966 Corvette thinking, “What have I done? Somehow I have got to get out of this.” I did not want to be married, yet that is
exactly what I had done. An uneasy
silence ruled the apartment for a few days after we returned. I was simply overwhelmed by the mess I had
created. I knew I could get out of the
marriage, but was not sure how to go about it, because I knew it involved legal
stuff and I was not going to ask my dad about it. So, I went with the flow and started law
school, thinking that I would deal with this problem later.
next year, I got up and drove to Indianapolis every day for classes, while
Lynne walked to the high school to teach English. The apartment was a dorm room, really, so we
were both used to the routine of students.
Lynne was working on her Master’s degree in English (still the only
teacher at KHS that has one). The
apartment was covered with books, papers, typewriters and the other necessities
of fulltime students. Lynne used to say
that for the first two years of our marriage all she saw of me was the back of
my head, as I hunched over my desk studying.
was tight. Every two months we saved
enough to buy a two pound pot roast for dinner.
A lost contact was not replaced for a month because we could not find
the $35 to replace it. There were lots of salads and noodles and a bag lunch at
school. Every extra dollar went into the
gas tank of the VW. We were getting by,
but just barely.
the end of law school, Lynne, who had finished her master’s degree with honors,
found herself wanting a child. The
transformation was breathtaking. She was
relentless in her quest to get pregnant and I was just as relentless in trying
to avoid it. Guess who won the
argument? Not me.
we embarked upon that journey many couples take together. Elaborate plans were made. We fixed up the baby’s room. Baby
clothes were acquired. All the necessary
baby stuff, needed or not, was amassed. The D-day invasion at Normandy in WW2 was not as
well planned. And we awaited the great event. Lynne was electric with excitement. I was a trapped rat.
to St Joe was unremarkable, as was the birth... except Nathan was born dead of
unknown cause or causes. No one,
including the physician, saw that one coming. We both held Nathan’s small,
lifeless body in the hospital room.
Lynne wept uncontrollably. The
OB staff panicked, because the delivery physician was a last minute fill-in for
our vacationing, regular physician (he never told us he would be gone) and I
was completely unprepared. We were both
numb, not being equipped to deal with this disaster and never having had any
significant experience of failure or with the randomness of tragedy that
sometimes the human condition encounters.
previously said, Lynne was devastated.
For a considerable time after Nathan’s death, I wondered if I was going to get my wife back. She stared into the distance frequently,
cried a lot, and sat by herself. I was
clueless about what to do. I remember
sitting with her on the front steps of our house, holding her hand, when it all
came to a head on a Sunday afternoon.
cannot believe this has happened,” she said.
“It’s like a nightmare.”
know.” I responded. “Are we supposed to say that Nathan’s death is the Lord’s
will? I do not know that I buy that,
this.” she stated. “Somehow this IS the
Lord’s will. I do not know how or why,
but that is the truth. I do not
understand it at all, but I have to learn to accept it.”
have another child after you feel better, you know? I am available anytime.”
let’s get on with it. I am feeling
daughter was born eighteen months later at St. Joe. No birth was monitored as closely as that
pregnancy. Every nurse and OB person was
radical and fanatical about that upcoming delivery. We later learned that we
had the “A” team monitoring the pregnancy.
(Kate Middleton won’t get the quality of care Lynne received.) It was as if the entire hospital OB staff
decided that there was nothing going to go wrong this time. Everything was
checked and double-checked. The new OB
physician called in his super nurses and other personnel, who were all put on
call when the delivery date approached. The subsequent birth of our daughter
we learn as result of Nathan’s death? A
couple of things. First of all, Lynne
and I were, up to that time, two of the “golden ones.” Products of intact families, fathers who
worked hard to provide for their families, married to good, solid mothers
devoted to their families and who stayed home to raise them, insisting that the
children were educated at the best schools where excellence was expected, and
given everything they could want and all the tools to get ahead in life. We could do no wrong. Neither of us had any failures of any
significance. Life was our oyster. Our inevitable success was written in the
sky. Who could stop us?
learned that life could stop us. That’s
what. How could we have predicted this
tragic event? We couldn’t. We were shot out of the saddle with
absolutely no warning. And I think that
Nathan’s tragic death welded us together for the first time. We had to learn to accept and deal with a
seemingly random event for which we had not planned and over which we had no
control. Everything had always somehow
worked out before or there was a fairly simple solution to the problem.
Nathan’s death taught us in no uncertain terms
that we were not running the show, that our carefully laid out plans were
meaningless, and that sometimes you get to take a hard knock of life right on
the chin, when you were least expecting it.
More importantly, we learned that you picked yourself up off the ground,
got back in the saddle, and got on with your life…together. I think we became a team because of Nathan’s
significant event was my father’s untimely and unexpected death. Up to the time of his death, I had it
made. Let me explain. Dad and I worked together for 23 years
without a single argument. Most fathers
and sons could not do that, but we did.
Dad didn’t like doing some types of cases, which I liked to do. I didn’t like doing some cases which he
liked. So, we worked it out so that I got to do what I liked, and dad did what
he liked. So everyone got to do what
they liked. It worked perfectly. Dad handled all the mechanics of operating
the office, like hiring and firing, paying the taxes, setting schedules, and so
forth. This left me to do nothing but
actually practice law every day without being burdened by the crap of running
an office. I was making more money than
I could spend, and occasionally, had fun doing it. Then he died during a routine procedure at
St. Vincent Hospital. To say I was devastated would be an understatement.
36 hours I went from happy-go-lucky
kid-lawyer to the boss, responsible for the whole office. I was not equipped to do that, so I got a
crash course in on the job training. I
had to clean up his cases plus do mine, all the while keeping the office
running. I was scared to death.
through it only with Lynne’s help and support.
I worked 80 hours a week for almost a year to get it all under control,
or at least marginally controlled chaos.
Lynne knew that the stress I was under was affecting my health. I was not sleeping. I was at work at 6am and didn’t come home
until late at night.
said to me, “You go take care of the office.
I’ll take care of everything else.
Do not worry about anything here.
I will handle it. Fix the
I say about this now? Simply stated, I
could not have done it without her. She
was marvelous. She knew what I was
dealing with. She knew exactly what to
say and do…and did it. What a
woman! Once again, we were a team. It made all the difference.
today’s world, we have all sorts of idiots trying to tell us what makes a
successful marriage and how to have one.
I have something to say about that based on personal experience and
success. Few people can speak with that
authority. I can. You may not agree with me, but then you would
be thinking ignorantly.
people who talk about successful marriages usually talk about three areas: respect for the other person, money and sex,
not necessarily in that order. I am not
an expert in any of those areas, but I know a little. Maybe, just enough to get into trouble.
not inherently evil, but it can destroy a marriage easily. Every one of us has to learn to live within
our incomes. If you don’t, I can assure
you the marriage won’t work. It is not
good to ride home on a new Harley-Davidson with the electric bill unpaid. You better not buy that new pair of three
inch heels or that piece of jewelry you just can’t live without, if you can’t
pay the insurance bill that is due. And
you better not be buying extras if you haven’t funded the kid’s college fund.
Most people do not do any of this. As a consequence, they are constantly
stressed about bills, most of which are for stupid stuff. What do they expect? Lynne and I never had money arguments as we
agreed most of the time on what we bought.
We had simple rules. The kids
came first. Always. And that included putting enough money back
to pay for their four years of private college, plus graduate school, fully
funded with no student loans. We both
hated debt. All and any debt is bad. Period. No exceptions. So, second on the list was to pay off the
mortgage and never get another one. We
did and we didn’t. Credit cards were
used for everything…and paid off each month.
Always. No exceptions. And we did.
know what happened? Once the kids school
was paid, and the mortgage paid off, and with no credit card debt, what do you
do with all the money? I will tell you
what we did with it. Investments. Till it got to the point that didn’t make a
difference anymore. Then you get to do
whatever you want, whenever you want, and not give two shakes about what it
and I saw it the same. Two good
incomes. And all that becomes
reality. So that when you get sick,
money is just not a problem. Once again
we were a team.
give you two examples. I have a
wonderful friend who confided to me that he and his wife were seriously in debt
on their overextended credit card.
Serious debt. He asked for my
advice. I told him that he needed to cut
up the card, negotiate a settlement with the credit card company and go on an austerity
plan for a couple of years to avoid a bankruptcy. He responded thanking me for what he
recognized as good advice. I then got an
email from him asking what I thought of him buying his wife, who is unemployed,
a very expensive to buy and maintain sports car. I responded by referring to the credit card
debt and suggesting that he had lost his mind.
He responded that it was good to know that, while I might be sick, my
brain was still working. He said he
needed someone to bring him back to reality and thanked me.
So he bought the car anyway! Neither of them
needed that car. They both wanted it to
be sure. Need versus want. Big difference. Not with Lynne. We developed a habit of saving to buy what we
needed and never bought what we wanted, until the other expenses long term were
paid in full.
years ago I told Lynne I wanted to buy another Ducati. It was not all that expensive, as it was
used. Lynne said, ”Well, the kids’
school is paid, the houses are paid,
we’ve got no debt and there is nothing I want, so I think you should buy
it. Have fun!” Big difference, don’t you think?
believe sex is a private matter or at least should be (not according to the
current TV who-res, the Kardashians). I
am a big believer in the greatest statement about sex ever made. Lady Churchill once said, “I care not what
consenting adults willingly do in private, so long as they do not scare the
horses.” She would have been a great
date, I suspect, but I digress. If you
think I am going to divulge details of my sex life with Lynne, you are sadly
mistaken, as I believe that to be a private matter. But I can tell you that I think successful
married sex has rules. You will notice I
said “married.” If you are not married,
then this doesn’t apply to you.
all, sex should be fun…for both parties.
If it isn’t, something needs to be fixed. Second, participation should be joyous and
voluntary. If it isn’t, then something
needs to be fixed. Third, sometimes one
of us is not in the mood. Nothing wrong
with that. There will be other
opportunities. Get over it. Go read a book. It is not the sort of thing that should be
argued about or the subject of hurt feelings.
If you are not into it, your partner is going to figure that out in 30
seconds. Sex with an uninterested or lackadaisical partner is not worth the
effort. And it is not about you, is
it? If it is, then something is broken
and needs to be fixed.
sex can make a good marriage better. But
great sex is not going to make a successful marriage by itself. Everyone gets bored in that situation. Everyone has buttons they like to have
pushed. If you don’t know about your
spouse’s buttons, something is wrong and you had better fix it. After all, great sex is not about you, but is
about your partner. Or at least it
should be. Right?
my wife’s permission to give you this little tidbit. After almost 40 years of marriage, I think we
have this sex thing down. We have a set
of code comments to let the other party know we have an itch that needs to be
scratched. These code phrases can be used in polite society without letting
anyone who overhears know what is going on beneath the surface and can spice up
an evening out with friends. Imagine standing in a room full of people at a
party. Your spouse walks up to you and
quietly says, “Let’s go, hey” and then walks away. The interaction is meaningless to anyone
listening, except us. We both know that is a classic line from The Catcher in
the Rye. That line and each one of the
lines below is an innocuous way to say to your spouse “Let’s go to bed.” The rest of the evening at the party will be
electric, I can assure you.
Feel free to steal the lines. We did. Author
J.D. Salinger has the hooker utter a memorable line to Holden Caulfield
in The Catcher in the Rye. “Let’s go, hey.” The line should be delivered in a flat
voice void of any emotion with a dead pan
expression. Try it, providing
your spouse has read the book.
is the famous line from the original Stepford
Wives. “Oh baby, you are the
king.” To be said with totally over the top emotion at just the right moment,
if you catch my drift. I guarantee
hilarious laughter will follow. Or try
the line from Shampoo. “Oh baby oh baby.” To be delivered totally deadpan and repeated
Lynne and I have our own line taken from an old rock and roll tune. Rarely do either of us come away from an
“encounter” uninjured. Some one always
takes a shot to the head by an elbow. Or
a knee into a tummy. Or a poke in the
eye or nose. Or falls out of bed. Or bangs into the headboard or foot board. You get the picture. Anytime one of these accidents happen, one of
us, and sometimes both of us, will exclaim “Love hurts.” Which triggers all sorts of things, some of
which is laughter. Which is a good
thing, isn’t it? Try it. Maybe it will work for you.
there is the matter of respect for your spouse.
Respect is shown and is evident in many different ways. Most people do not have a clue what I am
talking about. I think there are rules
regarding respect. The rules are not
much different than the rules of life. First,
never lie. Second, it is not all about
me -- it is about you. Third, your spouse and children come first, always. Fourth, whatever money is available,
regardless of who earned the most, is held equally and to be spent with
agreement. Fifth, when you signed on for
the trip by putting that ring on your finger, you did for life, not just for
the good times. Sixth, cheating is
unacceptable, except in a The Sessions scenario. Seventh, everyone needs alone-time,
occasionally. This is not rejection, it
is about respecting privacy, which has its place in all marriages.
you need to recognize that there will be difficult times and the two of you
will have disagreements. Most of the
time, disagreements are over things that in the course of a lifetime really do
not matter. However, sometimes things
really do matter. The trick is to
distinguish the two, which is not always easy to do, particularly when one or
both of you is being emotional. In the
middle of an argument, which is escalating, it is good to stop and ask the
other party if the subject matter really matters long term. Oftentimes, your partner will say it
doesn’t matter. Then why argue over it? What is the point? There is no point. Kiss and make-up.
points the long term ramifications really do matter. Try to compromise. If that doesn’t work, then one of you makes
the command decision and the other party goes along.
tell your spouse that you love him or her at least twice a day. No exceptions. Even when you are mad. Trust me on this. Telling your spouse you love them can make up
for a world of problems and a slew of arguments.