I can trace my origins back to a simple misunderstanding.
My parents (to be) met at a party. It was the twenty-first birthday of a mutual friend (or friend-of-a-friend), and a young man – who would eventually become my father – asked a young lady to dance. As they moved around the dance floor, they attempted conversation, but the music was loud – and so it was that my mother (the young lady), keeping herself at a modest distance from her dance partner, mistook what he was saying for a querulous demand to know why she was holding herself so primly apart from him.
What she heard was, “Don’t you trust yourself?”
To which she replied (in her usual witty and forthright manner), “Of course I trust myself – it’s YOU I don’t trust!”
The young man blinked in confusion, and it took him some time – maybe until the end of the song (when the music quieted) – to regain the gumption to clarify himself:
“Actually, what I asked you was, ‘Did you make this dress yourself?’.”
Some time later, that same young couple became engaged. My Dad had proposed without a ring, as he wanted them to choose one together, and so my Mum was waiting to be adorned with that special symbol of their commitment. Christmas was coming, and with it the perfect opportunity for him to give her the bling.
Unfortunately, nobody had read Dad the Memo. Instead of a diamond, he gave her:
- An umbrella, and;
- A very nice pen
Fortunately, my Mum is the forgiving sort. In due course, they designed a ring together and he bestowed it on her and all was well. They’ve now been married for four and a half decades, and there have been plenty of funny misunderstandings (and opportunities for forgiveness), in the intervening years.
My folks do share some important similarities to one another. Both are kind, both have great senses of humour (although they’ll laugh – and joke – about very different things), both are genuinely caring and compassionate, both are generous to a fault, and both share a faith in God and a determination to live out that faith in their everyday lives.
But in other ways, my parents are quite different. For one thing, my Mum is a word person. She’s a great writer and communicator, and she is very wise about matters of the heart and soul. My Dad, while not exactly the opposite of that, is much more of a mathematician and scientist – brilliant when it comes to numbers, but not always as astute when it comes to the nuances of social behaviour (and, my Mum would argue, codes of dress). Mum loves the idea of a relaxing holiday – going somewhere familiar, and having some down-time together; Dad, on the other hand, prefers his vacations to involve lots of activity and he enjoys discovering new places more than returning to old haunts. But in spite of their differences, my parents have managed to make their marriage a strong and harmonious one. They have been through lean times and times of plenty. They have loved and supported one another through job transfers and international moves, the raising of children, the loss of parents… the list goes on and on. They have lived their lives together.
Now their children are married, too. My sister and I have both married men who are, in ways, quite different from ourselves. I, a logophile like my mother, am married to an engineer like my father. I am chatty; he is a man of few words (more on that in my next post). I’m big on emotion and can usually interpret the emotions of others (this is a necessary aid for my less-emotionally-aware hubby). He has all the answers when it comes to matters of science, or at least he knows where to find them.
A. asked me a question the other day – something about oxygen in space – and I didn’t have a clue what the answer was. I told him, “That’s the kind of question you can ask Daddy – he knows all about that kind of stuff. But if you have any questions about words or feelings, I’m your girl.” A. was very appreciative of this: he replied, “Uh, yeah.” So perhaps he’s leaning more towards Westley’s communication style.
The thing is, we’re different. We think differently, we process things differently, we express love differently. Because of these differences, it can be easy to misunderstand one another. And where there’s misunderstanding, there is opportunity for offense and hurt. But there is also opportunity for forgiveness. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching my parents in their relationship, and from hearing the story of how they met, it is that – as long as you have forgiveness and a sense of humour – sometimes great things can grow from little misunderstandings.