It was March 12, 1995. I was keeping a journal of my spiritual journey and working on a book which I called "Awakened by the Spirit." Later this would turn out to be the basis for my serial comic strip, "Theophilus and the Powers of Darkness," which would be published and distributed on the internet in weekly installments beginning in 1997.
I was so deeply involved with this book that I lost track of time. I wasn't watching the clock to see if it is time for lunch or for the mail delivery like I usually did. The Lord was surely in this, I decided.
Sylvia was getting more involved in the book also. And she was beginning to open up and share some of her memories of times when she felt abandoned and hurt by me. For example, she said the worse time of her whole life was right after we got married!!!
I was fortunate to be stationed at the Air Force base in West Palm Beach in 1952, but my life there got even better in 1953. That is when Sylvia came home from Rhode Island where she had been a student at the Hospital School of Nursing in Providence, and I would meet her at Church.
Many years later I would learn that before I met Sylvia, her best friend Nellie Hansen had told her what had been happening at Church while she was away in nursing school. She told Sylvia about me and showed her my photo, and Sylvia had said, "That is who I am going to marry!"
Sylvia and I started dating in April. I had never kissed a girl and had few dates prior to this. I guess I was afraid of rejection. I was also afraid of girls. One night I got up enough courage to kiss Sylvia. And she kissed me back. What a wonderful feeling!!!
I remember telling Sylvia on one of our dates about my plans for the future. I told her that I had another couple of years of active duty in the Air Force. After that I planned to go to art school or college. After I graduate from college I plan to get a good job, design a house and save up the money to build it, and then I will think about getting married.
Less than two months later as we were saying goodnight on one of our dates, I heard someone who sounded just like me say, "Will you marry me?" And someone who sounded just like Sylvia say, "Yes!!!"
When I got back to the base, I was thinking about what had just happened, and I told another airman that I had just asked a girl to marry me. After thinking about it a few more minutes, I said, "That's not a bad idea."
We decided to get married on December 1st, my parents' anniversary. I suggested that date for our wedding because I knew my parents would not be able to make the trip from west Tennessee where they lived to attend our wedding in West Palm Beach. I'm not sure why I thought that would make them feel like they actually participated.
As the date of our wedding drew near, I began the countdown of how many days were left before I would already be home, and not have to go back to my barracks on the Air Force Base after Sylvia and I kissed "Goodnight."
December 1, 1953. This was an exciting time in our lives. We had rented a nice furnished apartment within walking distance of the church building and downtown West Palm Beach. Sylvia worked in a department store. I loved my work in the Training Aids art department at the base, had made "Airman of the Month," and expected to be promoted to Staff Sergeant very soon. Just married. A three-day pass. A honeymoon. Who could ask for more?
We didn't own a car, so after the wedding and reception, Sylvia's parents took us in their car to Fort Lauderdale and dropped us off at the hotel, where we would have our 3-day honeymoon. I don't know why we chose a downtown hotel for our honeymoon instead of one on the beach, unless it was so we would be within walking distance of the Greyhound Bus Station when it was time to take the bus back to West Palm Beach. Our honeymoon was a disappointment for both of us. I think this entry from Sylvia's journal says it all:
"Our first confrontation. I get up and eat breakfast. He didn't. I walked to the dime store and ate all alone. We went to a movie and that was fun. I think that is all we did except walk through downtown for hours."
On Friday we took the bus back to West Palm Beach and walked to our apartment. The next morning Sylvia went to work in town as an elevator operator and I went back to the base and was given my orders to go to Korea!
I was shocked!
Immediately, I began to plan how we would use my 30 days of leave and additional time for travel by train from West Palm Beach, Florida to the processing base near Oakland, California. I phoned my mother and told her that I was being sent overseas. She wanted us to come right away and spend my entire leave time with them.
I decided we would spend two weeks with my parents and siblings in Tennessee. Sylvia and I would have the other two weeks alone in California. Then Sylvia would return to West Palm Beach and I would report to the base. That was my plan. I rushed downtown to break the news to Sylvia!
This entry from Sylvia's journal describes her reaction:
"Bob came into the store and said, 'Quit your job!
We're going home to Mother's in Tennessee!'
I was so
Where was my marriage?!!
I thought I was his family."
We moved our belongings from our apartment to Sylvia's parents' house and stored them in their garage. We arranged with her parents for Sylvia to live with them until I got back from Korea.
All this was new to Sylvia! Just married! Had to suddenly quit her job! The long first-time trip by train from the south Florida coast to the California coast! A two-week stopover in west Tennessee with my family she had never met! With a brand new husband! And then the return trip by train from coast to coast alone! She was frightened! And she thought, "Why is this happening?!! What happened to my marriage?!!"
And then while in Tennessee she watched me pay more attention to my mother than to her.
In chapter 8 I told how God used a friend of mine to give me the courage to join the Air Force and leave home. I was glad to be away from home, living my own life. At home I felt smothered. Trouble is -- I never really left home, even though I was now married to Sylvia. I still needed my mother's approval. I realize now how this must have hurt Sylvia and it breaks my heart, but at the time I was unaware.
We were with my family during Christmas. Sylvia got some money from me to buy a gift. My brother Gaylon took her to the store and she bought me an electric razor. She thought I would be pleased, but I made her take it back for a refund. She remembered that I said that I wasn't sure we would have electricity in Korea, and we shouldn't be spending money on something like that anyway.
Years later I would come to understand that Sylvia's love language was "gifts." But mine wasn't. And my rejection of her gift of love hurt her more than I could imagine. For years after that as I gave Sylvia gifts that she rejected, I would experience the same feelings that she had at this time.
I had decided that it would be a good idea for her to accompany me to Oakland, California, so we could spend a few days in a hotel until I had to report to the overseas processing base. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it did not turn out to be a good experience for either of us. Sylvia remembered that I did not eat breakfast, but she did and she asked me for money to do so. I asked her how much she needed. She didn't know, but I insisted on an amount. Then she had to be certain that she ordered something that did not run over that amount. Not a happy memory.
More from Sylvia's journal: "I didn't want to go to Tennessee to meet his family. I was so afraid that they would hate me. We took the train to Memphis and his family picked us up in their car. We stayed there through Christmas. Then we rode the train to Oakland, California, and stayed in a horrible hotel downtown.
"Nellie's sister-in-law Vayda told me later that it was the same one she and her husband Robert had stayed in when he was going overseas and they hated it too. The taxi driver had recommended it.
"But it was out of the cold. About two weeks later Bob sent me back to West Palm Beach to live with my parents while he was overseas and he moved out to the base. We did not know it at the time, but by then I was pregnant."
I remember encouraging Sylvia that she would get home safely and that our year apart would go by fast and that everything was going to be okay. We kissed and said goodbye. I waved to her as the train left the station. Then I got a taxicab to the processing base, checked in, and was assigned a bunk in one of the barracks. That night after lights out, reality set in. I buried my face in my pillow to muffle the sound, and for the first time in my memory, I cried myself to sleep.
On her way back to West Palm Beach, Sylvia encountered a problem. She wrote about it in her journal: "I got as far as Jacksonville, Florida, and found out that I needed an additional ticket to get to West Palm Beach. I didn't have enough money for the ticket. I couldn't call my parents because I didn't know how to make a long distance call and was too shy to ask for help.
"I figured I would spend the rest of my life in the Jacksonville Train Station, just walking around crying and praying to God to get me back to West Palm Beach somehow. But I didn't have much hope for that.
"In a few minutes I saw two people I knew: Mr. and Mrs. Varner, the sponsors for the Methodist Youth Fellowship in West Palm Beach. I told them my sad tale and they bought my ticket. I made it to the train station in West Palm Beach and called my parents."
Sylvia added this comment to her journal: "That was one time that I
So immediately after we were married, when I got my orders to go to Korea, Sylvia felt abandoned. When we spent so much of the time I had left in the states with my family in Tennessee, she felt really abandoned. Then when she ran out of money and was stranded at the Jacksonville, Florida, train depot, she felt abandoned again.
I told her how really sorry I was and asked for her forgiveness.
It looked like this book was going to be therapeutic for both of us.
Communication in Love
June 25, 1995. That night Sylvia and I prayed together that God would heal any wound either of us have that was caused by the other one. We asked Him to make it clear to us if there was something we need to deal with.
When I woke up the next morning, I remembered a dream that I had during the night. In the dream I was flat on my back. I could not see my legs. They were underneath something, but I didn't know what it was. Sylvia was just a few feet away. She was partially hidden from my view, because she was behind the car with the trunk lid raised. I called out to her and tried to get her attention. I needed her immediately. I felt it was an emergency. I was sure that she heard me, but she didn't respond.
She continued with some kind of activity with the trunk of the car that seemed insignificant, certainly not urgent. Now and then she would turn and say something to someone nearby. They would laugh and talk, and she would go back to what she was doing.
I continued to call her name, but there was no response. As I observed her giving others attention and doing insignificant tasks while ignoring my calls for help, anger grew inside of me!
Next I saw my hands on her shoulders. I was shaking her and asking, "How can I get your attention?!!"
My thumb moved to her throat. Her eyes enlarged! The expression on her face showed that she was in pain. I removed my hands. I felt so ashamed!
As I began to explain my frustration to Sylvia, two or three people came up and began talking about nothing in particular. They seemed unaware of the importance of the conversation that they had interrupted.
I paused, waiting for them to move on. They gradually walked away. Sylvia walked with them a short distance. I waited for her return so that we could continue our important discussion. I could think of nothing else!
When she did not return right away, I looked around and saw that she was alone, but she was engaged in some other activity with her back toward me. I couldn't believe it!!!
Exasperated, I walked in her direction.
That is all of the dream that I remembered when I woke up.
This seemed to be God's answer to last night's prayer. I told Sylvia about the dream and we discussed the meaning. I felt that she paid attention to everyone else and deliberately ignored me. Other people seemed more important to her than me. I was frustrated and angry.
I cited as an example something that had happened the night before. I had asked her a question and she didn't answer right away. Sylvia explained that she was not ignoring me, but was trying to think of an answer to my question. While the question seemed so simple to me, it raised other questions to her mind. Like, what difference did it make? And what motivated me to ask that question. She said that she was struggling to determine how to answer.
I was certain that she had heard my question. There was no verbal response, so I thought she was ignoring me. Neither of us knew what the other was thinking.
Our probem has been one of communication. With the Lord's help, that was improving. Perhaps the main reason for this dream was to get us to talk about it.
Later, after sending this dream with my idea of what it meant to Shanna for verification, I received this note: "Your interpretation is very much correct. There is only one thing I believe the Lord would add through me: 'Being ignored is not a license for anger. They are both wrong. Communication in love is the key.'"
At the time I don't think either of us realized just how difficult it would be for us to change, or that it would involve spiritual warfare against a familiar spirit and the devil in order to recover our lost keys.
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