Dearest Rachel –

On Sunday, Junior spoke about conflict among believers, and how that should be sorted out internally before making a spectacle of ourselves before the rest of the world. I miss being able to turn to you and smile, having put that (for the most part) behind us?

Do you remember our fight, honey?

And for anyone else reading that, no, I didn’t neglect to put the word ‘first’ before ‘fight.’ I mean, I guess it was our first fight, but to call it that implies the existence of a second, and quite possibly third, fourth, and so on, after that.

Of course, it’s true we didn’t always see eye to eye on certain things thereafter; we just didn’t fight about them. And our ‘first’ time was why.

I don’t recall whether it was a Thursday, a Friday, or a Saturday, to be honest. It was the beginning of a weekend, but it may have been a fairly long weekend, or not. That part really doesn’t matter to the story. What does matter, however, was that I was getting ready to go to a Promise Keepers event, and my dad and several others were on their way to pick me up when this happened.

Just consider the irony of this. Here I am, about to leave home for a weekend for a series of stadium-sized meetings about how to be a better man, in terms of my walk with God, my dealings with others… and in terms of my relationship to my wife.

And I get into a fight with her as I’m waiting for my ride there.

This is not a good look, people.

We were trying to unload the dishwasher, and put things away. Plates are easy; there’s usually still some in the cabinets to give me an idea where they go. Silverware, however, takes time. I pull out as many of one type as I can at a time, and cross the crowded kitchen to set them in their place in the drawer. It’s going too slowly, and even you know it. Finally, you instruct me to just ‘grab everything and put them by the drawer. I’ll take care of them, don’t bother putting them away.’

So I grab whole handfuls of whatever silverware I can and drop them atop the counter over the silverware drawer. Yeah, it makes no sense to me – it’s not really an improvement in terms of speed, and I’m getting worked up about that fact, and that the guys will be here any second – but it’s what you asked, right?

Right? So why are you getting so mad at me?

Turns out, you’re thinking I was grabbing these indiscriminate handfuls of silverware for the sole purpose of being obnoxious. At one point, you have just straight-up had it with me, and you… pull the silverware rack out of the dishwasher, and slam it down atop the pile of silverware I’ve created.

I am agog. “Wait… you mean that thing comes out?

And instantly, your anger dissipates in turn. “Wait… you mean you didn’t know that?

Cue the two of us laughing in relief at each other’s ignorance, just in time for a horn outside to sound.

“Best get going, honey.” A kiss, and I’m off.

And that was how we learned about how to avoid so much of the conflict that plagues most other marriages, right as we were just getting started:

  • Never assume your partner knows everything you do. What may be perfectly obvious to you may well be completely foreign to them.
  • Always assume that, in any situation, your partner is getting the short end of the deal, and do what you can to make it up to them (not a lesson from this particular experience, but it did stop a number of arguments about ‘who-gets/does-what’ in a number of situations going forward from there – including ‘who empties the dishwasher.’ Turned out, you had a system, and I was not to mess with it).
  • Finally, remember that old adage about not sweating the small stuff? Yeah, it’s all small stuff in the end. Life’s too short to fuss over this or that.

It was gratifying to hear Pastor Scott say at your funeral that “if any other couple told me they only had one fight, I wouldn’t have believed them. But Randy and Rachel, well…”

On the other hand, that’s kind of sad for everyone else, isn’t it?

And it’s not to say we didn’t have moments. You remember how I would get so frustrated with Daniel’s lack of motivation with regard to his schoolwork. Particularly his procrastination: the work doesn’t get any easier when you wait to do something. Get it done, I always thought, and get it over with. There were times I was so frustrated with him that I could scream – and I’m not proud of myself to say I did, several times.

But you would take over, and calm things down. After all, you were something of a procrastinator yourself, back in the day, and you understood where he was coming from in a way that I didn’t. You would help him through, calling on me to help with answers you couldn’t solve right away for him.

I still remember that A-to-Z PowerPoint presentation we put together for him on either Lincoln or the Civil War on the night before it was due – complete with having to run out for printer ink in order to produce all 26 pages for him to take to school. I don’t, however, know what kind of grade he got on it. I suspect the teacher may well have seem our hands all over it, and docked him a bit for it, but I can’t recall.

Recently, of course, we’d gotten into discussing politics. I don’t think I need to spill a whole lot of electronic ink about the state of affairs we’ve been in throughout 2020 and going into 2021. I’m pretty sure that I went from being the most conservative member of the family to being the most liberal… without particularly changing many of my own opinions. Our discussions, based on what newsfeeds each of us had been reading or listened to, were… interesting, to say the least. But not particularly heated; we were all pretty much on the same page, if on different paragraphs.

The thing is, there’s an old adage about the news: yesterday’s newspaper is today’s fishwrap. Or maybe today’s is tomorrow’s – it’s all the same sentiment. Basically, just like with any other thing we might argue or fight about, it’s not important – or it won’t be, soon enough.

Too many of us forget that far too often.

If you or I were smug in the knowledge that we’d figured that out, I’d like to think we hadn’t let it go to our heads, though. After all, that wasn’t any more worthwhile than arguing was. Best to enjoy the peace of each other’s company, and ignore the things that could disrupt it, save perhaps for the entertainment of watching the rest of the world seeming to go out of their way to be as miserable as possible. To be sure, misery is probably the default human condition in this fallen world (like with water seeking its own level), but there are ways to speed down there, and ways to drift along, avoiding the worst life has to offer.

Yesterday, our producer met me as I was coming in for the biweekly recording session, and asked how I was doing. We talked about life after you, and how lucky I had been to have had you in my life, and how rarely we argued, let alone fought. He shook his head, and told me that we had become a reminder to other guys like himself about how precious their wives truly were. If we inspire others to improve their marriages from this day forth, perhaps this will have made a difference.

For my part, I have so enjoyed this cruise with you, sweetheart. I just wish it could have lasted longer.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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