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Dave and Emma

by Ruth Thoutenhoofd  
1/19/2012 / Marriage

Dave and Emma

He was gnarled and stooped from years of struggling on a poor little farm, three fingers sacrificed to a threshing machine, "rheumatis" swelling his painful joints.
He had a big voice and a kind heart. His grandchildren loved him.

He helped his son farm the sloping eighty acre farm. The house he shared with Emma was tiny four rooms in total on a dirt basement lined with shelves for the year's canning. Only in later years was there a bathroom added.

At church he sang so loudly he embarrassed his family. It didn't matter - he loved church. He loved the people who went there. After the service, he enjoyed the fellowship and was one of the last to leave. Emma was a shy woman and stood quietly, or sat in the car waiting patiently. People were important to him and she seemed not to mind the wait.

He wasn't one to talk about love. He simply had committed himself to Emma in marriage and that meant for better or worse. She had lost a lung earlier so she spent a lot of time sitting or lying on the couch. She did a little gardening, made big plain sugar cookies for the grandchildren, cooked good simple food, and kept a tidy house. This was the "better".

The "worse" started maybe forty years into the marriage. Early in her sixties Emma collapsed on the ground trying to wash a window. A small stroke was suspected. During that year it happened a few more times and she started to deteriorate. Finally, in her late sixties she had become a different woman. She sat in a rocking chair, jaw slack and eyes vacant. When she spoke it rarely made sense. She needed to be fed, washed, and taken to the bathroom. Dave did it all. He never complained. He cared for her, learned to cook and can, took care of the house, and struggled with his "rheumatis". Sometimes his daughter-in-law would find him nearly weeping from the pain, his ankles enormously swollen. He kept going.

There was never any talk of a nursing home. Maybe he couldn't afford it; maybe it never entered his head to let someone else care for her. In any case, this was his life for the next thirteen years. During that time he had a heart attack, continued to struggle with his painful joints, and kept cheerful. Emma was his life. If he was tired of caring for her, he never mentioned it.

She died in her mid seventies and he kept referring to her body as "the corpse". Emma was gone; she no longer needed it. He was a practical man. The inevitable grief and regret followed, and he expressed with tears in his eyes that he wished he could have given her more. He was referring to material things. He didn't seem to realise that the gift he had given her could never be compared to something he bought with money.

I'm a grandmother who enjoys writing true stories about people that have a message for believers.

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