We left Adam’s house that afternoon a lot later than we had planned, and it wasn’t long before it was dark. I wanted to press on as long as we could, but the Lord had other plans.
Along a lonely stretch of road, my headlights picked up two large sheep dogs, their tails curled over their backs, iron spiked collars on their necks to protect them from wolves. I slowed down, as you can never tell what animals may do.
They were off on the left hand side of the road, but just as I got to them, one crossed over in front of us and I was unable to avoid him. After the car struck him, he rolled off to the side of the road.
I felt bad about hitting him and wondered if he would survive but wasn’t about to stop and get out in the dark with a large wounded animal. Those dogs can be very fierce. Besides, I had something else to contend with. The impact had rearranged the front of the car and my headlights were now refocused: one shone off up in the air to the right, the other down and off the road to the left. We were not going to get very far that night!
I drove slowly to the next town, praising God that nothing worse had happened. We found a hotel and got some rest. The next day we made it back home before darkness came.
Shortly after our return from the east, I ate a overly ripe peach and got really sick with diarrhea, vomiting and a high fever. Just after I became ill, two single German women came to visit and set the scene for a cultural clash between Barbara and me.
For Germans, any guest has definite priority over family. In addition, in Barbara’s family culture if family members got sick, they were tolerated, but it was clearly communicated that they were being a bother, so they’d better hurry up and get well.
In my family culture, however, if you were sick, you were waited on hand and foot and treated like royalty. These contrasting viewpoints had not been much of a problem before now but the arrival of the guests caused Barbara to slip back into German mode, bringing on a conflict.
Barbara was busy being a good German hostess, taking care of every need of our guests, while I, from my point of view, was hovering on the edge of death in the bedroom. I was unable to eat, wracked with chills, barely able to crawl to the bathroom when the need arose, as it did often and violently. I was thirsty, but my hand was shaking so much from my chills and fever, that before I could bring a glass of water to my mouth, most of the water sloshed out onto the floor.
Every few hours Barbara would come in to poke the pile of blankets and make sure I was still alive underneath them.
During those two or three days I lost so much weight that I looked like a walking skeleton. My wedding ring fell off my emaciated finger and I didn’t even notice it.
When the guests finally left and I got well enough to have a coherent conversation, we had a little chat about priorities. Barbara had been sincerely unaware of neglecting me, and was very sorry. Being a good listener and teachable wife, that never happened again.
Shortly afterwards it was my turn to be the host. My parents wrote to say that they would come to visit in September as Dad was going to Paris to run in a half marathon. He had given up motocross at age sixty-three and had found more attention and admiration in the runners’ circles.
He told us that after Paris they’d come to see us for a couple of days. A couple of days! I understood Dad’s love of moving on quickly, but to come all that way and stay only a couple of days?
We finally convinced them to stay for a week, and it was a good time. Dad went out running each day on the streets of our city and usually ended up with a crowd of little kids tagging along behind him—very few people in our country were runners back then.
We took a trip down to some of the many biblical sites to give them a taste of the rich history of the area. They were duly impressed and were very glad that they’d come.
Pictures: Dad in Paris, Dad and Nat, all of us in front of our house. Note how skinny I am after my sickness