We didn’t have the radio on. The markets are all down anyway, and quotes come in all day long, never at night. We got CDs we take along on trips, but I hadn’t thought of them. It was quiet as a mouse in the Buick is what I’m saying. I guess I didn’t expect that questions we might ask—either of us—would come back in our laps. As old as we are, we’re not accustomed to people asking our opinions about things.
“I mean, it’s like I’ve been on a track in my life, and this whole thing—this whole on-line thing—I honestly don’t know what to think about it.”
“You love him?” my husband said.
“He’s so caring,” she said.
“That doesn’t answer the question,” my husband said. He was almost out of control.
“How much must you like a person before you sign up for the rest of your life?” Leanne asked. “How’d that work with you?” she asked.
I honestly don’t know how I would have answered that question, but I let the two of them be. The dash lights turned his face gold.
“I didn’t have much choice,” he said. He nodded towards me. “It just seemed natural, you know? With this internet business, it’s just a whole different thing.”
“And was it the right choice?” she said.
I wanted to break in, but I couldn’t. She was talking to him—even though I couldn’t see her face, I knew she was talking to him.
“Best choice of my life,” he said. “Best thing I ever did.”
“Ask him again when I’m not around,” I told her.
“But I didn’t know it then,” he said, “didn’t know half of what I know today, which is only half of what I should—if that. That make sense?”
“No,” she said.
“Don’t imagine it does to someone your age,” my husband said. “This guy you’re seeing—our pastor, Pastor Neal—he’s a fine, fine boy. Just can’t call him a man yet, but he’ll get there, hear? He doesn’t have a lick of deceit in him. I think you can trust him, which says a lot. I do.”
“I can trust the Lord,” she said, “but I have lots of problems trusting his people.”
“You and me and half the faithful, if not more,” he told her.
And then, just like that, she said it. “Would you pray for me?” she said. Poor thing was scared, and can you blame her?
“Right now?” my husband said.
“Yes,” she said. “Would you?”
Now I have never for one day in my life questioned my husband’s faith, not once. Not that he’s been outspoken. It’s just not his way. But when push comes to shove, I know he knows he’s in the hands of the Lord. We’ve been through too many hard times out here in the middle of nowhere for me to think he doesn’t find his only comfort in belonging to Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean that when he’s said just a few words to someone he hardly knows and he’s driving our Buick halfway through the night and he’s not all that comfy with the internet and women preachers—that doesn’t mean he’s just going to “go to the Lord” at the drop of the hat like some TV preacher with a wig. Honestly and truly, I didn’t know what on earth he’d say just then, although I knew in the middle of my heart and soul that he was just as sure as I was that he didn’t have much choice.
So my Garrett pulled over on Hwy. 44, not a car in sight, left the engine running, and the three of us got out into the black night, the sky full of jewelry. I insisted we hold hands, which is not my husband’s favorite thing to do. That’s the way it went.
Public prayer has never been one of my husband’s gifts, and he knows it. But this praying out here under a giant sky wasn’t public, the kind of public Jesus himself warned us all against. But what Garrett said that night broke through something for all of us—for this little girl, who didn’t know a thing about what she was getting into; for me, who maybe has too often not trusted her own husband in his later years; and for him, who wasn’t all that keen on any of this before this woman, in seminary, took him into her confidence and asked him to lean on the Lord God for her, to lift her up.
I’d tell you what he said if I could remember, but I wasn’t so much listening as I was praying myself. All I know is something broke out there in the darkness, and in me. I could feel something tugging from the inside of my head at my eyes and nose. I could feel it.
“Look at those stars,” I told her when he’d finished. “Just look up.”
“I never knew there were this many,” she said. “The sky is full.”
“Lots of things about life out here come as surprise,” I told her. “Trust me,” I said, and then I grabbed Garrett’s arm and pulled him close. “Even someone my age gets bowled over once in awhile.”
“You’re kidding,” she said.
“Keeps us young,” I told her, laying a kiss on my husband’s cheek for the first time in a ton of years on a country road.
“But now you listen to me, girl,” he said, standing out there in the weeds along the highway. “You go any farther with this guy, and you do something about that hair, will you?” he said.
“Garrett,” I said.
But she said she wasn’t all that fond of it herself, not for a preacher. That’s what she said, honestly, and that’s what I told Claire and Fran and Joe and Betty, and just a couple of others. And I’m sure it got around.
Come Sunday, Pastor Neal preached, bad haircut and all. And when you looked into his eyes, I still couldn’t help but think that right there was a man you could trust. I don’t remember the sermon. You get my age, and sometimes they go in one ear and out another. I just know it was good—that much I remember.
When Leanne walked in with the Bielemas, we were prepared for that triumphal entry, all of us. I saw to it myself, making sure everybody knew what went on the way home from Omaha. It wasn’t a show at all is what I’m saying.
“So what do you think?” I asked Garrett after we let her off at the Bielemas that Friday night.
“Just what the doctor ordered,” he said, when he stopped in the driveway to let me out. He raised his eyebrows, nodding, the interior lights glowing on his bald head.
I shut the door, and he drove the Buick into the garage.
That’s just the way it went. And now all we can do is pray, which is all we can do for our own kids too. Every day and every night, without ceasing.