Two Magic Words

In years gone by on an adventurous excursion into a never-to-be-revised wilderness, I was personally minded of two very profound words that are the difference between a preserved happy marriage, or one that is a perpetual prison of relenting conflict.

The occasion was that Martha and I had been long on the road in the distant outback of Africa. We were laboriously returning from somewhere up on the Angolan border that was at least a three-day road trip north of our quaint nest back in Cape Town. At the time, our faithful cocoon of transport was pointed southbound toward home, and thus we were bearing down to get there in order to find some relief from our weary journey. After over two weeks of intense ministry in the dust bowl of the African bush, we both were beyond exhaustion. It was as if we were just outside an emergency room, awaiting admittance for prolonged fatigue.

So we were finally on our way to a tranquil place where we would eventually lay our war-worn bodies down in the peace of our native bed. Our journey on the road on that final day of endless travel was the last of three consecutive days of road-wear on our now aged bodies. So we labored on in hope. We both envisioned the glory of a familiar bed that was not carried along on wheels that bounced from one pothole to another.

The silver moon was about the flip the switch off the setting sun when I decided that I had had enough of this endless road trip. After twelve hours of a bone-breaking drive on that day, that certainly went beyond twenty-four hours, my tormented body craved relief. I perceived that Martha was in the same mental and physical condition. We needed the peaceful sleep of some parallel time in reference to a bed, which bed we had in the back of our traveling home away from home. It was not homegrown, but it had nurtured our bodies for what now seemed to be a trek that would never end.

So in a moment of inconsiderate desperation, I made a unilateral decision … it would prove to be a bad decision, one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions that disrupt tranquil marriages. As was my normal bush custom when traveling alone, I often sought an off-road track that led to somewhere I assumed no man had ever gone before. At the time, I erroneously assumed that the two parties of this expedition would find some relief from such a road if we only ventured into the bush for just one last night. I turned off the main road. However, I failed to consult the other party of this expedition in order to reach some agreeable consent.

So I determined for myself—that was my mistake—that we would turn off the security of the main road and head aimlessly into the obscurity of a “Jurassic Park” wilderness. After all—I unfortunately reasoned—surely I was the head of this expedition and I had the right to determined personally that the existing party of two needed to make camp for the night. And also, was I not the head of this marital party? The headship part was right, but on this particular occasion the head became abnormally dysfunctional.

While traveling along on the main road with a destiny that would be our home, Martha and I had been dialoguing with one another about this and that. But something unexpectedly went wrong when I made that fatal turn onto a track off the main road into the unknown wilderness of bush and trees. In her fertile imagination I had just turned onto a pathway into the midst of wild animals that were salivating for an evening meal of delicate human flesh.

Therefore, after some time on my venture down this forgotten track into the wilderness, I suddenly came to a frightening realization. The previous dialogue of the party of two on the main road had now turned into a monologue. Martha went dead silent. I took a reality check of the situation and shockingly assessed that this was definitely not good.

I had been faithfully trained in the past that when this woman went silent, I had somehow forgotten to utter the two magic words of a successful marriage. At the time of my unilateral adventure to turn into the uncertainty of the bush, she had subjectively relented to the will of a determined mate who momentarily had forgotten the two magic words that preserve two people in the marital expedition for life.

Nevertheless, I doggedly persisted as white knuckles on the steering wheel revealed my dysfunctional determination. My reassuring monologue about the safety of our newly discovered “Jurassic Park” reaped no satisfaction from the one who was now my silent partner on this intrepid adventure.

In the deep twilight hours of the evening, I could faintly read Martha’s facial language. My discovery brought no peace of mind. Her stoic expression wordlessly shouted out that all my reassurance that we were safe to be in such an obscure place only proved to be words that were gone in the wind that blew dust across our pathway into oblivion.

I eventually started to come to some sense of sanity when I began to reason to myself that if both of us were devoured by creatures in this isolated sector of earth, no one would discover our vehicle and bones … ever. Our children would eventually have to sign death certificates that read, “Cause of death: Unknown. Place of death: Unknown.” The lyrics of the 1950s Kingston Trio singers sounded in my memory: “Did he ever return? No, he never returned. He was lost forever beneath the streets of Boston. He was the man who never returned.”

Seeking some reassurance in this now tested partnership, I continued to strain intensely through the twilight in a futile hope to discover even the slightest signal of approval on Martha’s face. But it was to no avail. She continued stoic. My reassuring monologue produced absolutely no glimmer of approval.

I then came to a forgotten realization. I immediately needed to behave what the two magic marital words would do to preserve this expedition. If I were not obedient to the action that these words demanded, I would get no sleep that night. I would toss and turn endlessly until I came to the eventual conclusion that I was in deep, deep trouble.

After not one brief peep came forth from the party with whom I had signed an expedition contract back in 1966 with the words “I do,” I frightfully realized that I had had a lapse of memory. I realized that I may have violated the contract. So I came to the conclusion that an immediate and certain decision had to be made that would salvage the happy atmosphere that I had enjoyed with the second party of this expedition unto this junction into the wilderness. Consequently, in my mind and heart I blurted out the magic words of a successful marriage, “Yes dear!” I then started the engine of our traveling cocoon, and speedily backtracked our way out of “Jurassic Park” and back onto the security of the main road toward civilization. The marriage contract was revalidated and preserved.

When we eventually arrived at the reassurance of the main road to continue our trek, my monotonous monologue gave way to a restored dialogue between the two partners of the expedition. Peace became the serendipity of two mates who could now continue on with their relentless homeward bound journey.

It was now dark and well into the time when the stars dominated the firmament of the heavens. Nevertheless, we toiled on. We continued to gruel on into the night. Both of us were now truly and totally wasted. We strained to discovery hope in what seemed to be an eternal darkness. As we surveyed the darkened horizon for some faint hope of civilization, we were almost at the point of despair.

And then discovery was realized. When we reached the peak of a hill on a road that seemed to have no end, we found hope in the dim lights of a far away village just this side of the horizon. We were both ecstatically overjoyed that now at last we had rediscovered civilization. Those lights revealed that there were human beings with whom we could reestablish our citizenship with humanity. There would be this night no lurking creatures under the cover of darkness who were seeking fresh meat.

So we meandered into this village or town that had itself long gone into dreamland. We were strangers seeking an inn, or campsite, or whatever among the narrow streets and alleys where we could camp and coma for the night. To this day I cannot recall the name of that village, or town, or whatever. I have no idea where we stopped and slept in the back of our home on wheels. All I know is that “Yes dear” had brought us to a place where sleep could be secured with a wife who was now resting in the arms of a husband who had behaved the two magic words of a successful marriage.

He had momentarily gone off the main road—had a lapse of memory—but he repentantly was now back into fulfilling a contract that long ago read, “To love and to protect.” All it took was “Yes dear,” and subsequently a restoration of peace was secured among the two parties of this lifetime expedition, or at least, “until death do us part.”

[Chapter from a forthcoming book.]

The occasion was that Martha and I had been long on the road in the distant outback of Africa. We were laboriously returning from somewhere up on the Angolan border that was at least a three-day road trip north of our quaint nest back in Cape Town. At the time, our faithful cocoon of transport was pointed southbound toward home, and thus we were bearing down to get there in order to find some relief from our weary journey. After over two weeks of intense ministry in the dust bowl of the African bush, we both were beyond exhaustion. It was as if we were just outside an emergency room, awaiting admittance for prolonged fatigue.

So we were finally on our way to a tranquil place where we would eventually lay our war-worn bodies down in the peace of our native bed. Our journey on the road on that final day of endless travel was the last of three consecutive days of road-wear on our now aged bodies. So we labored on in hope. We both envisioned the glory of a familiar bed that was not carried along on wheels that bounced from one pothole to another.

The silver moon was about the flip the switch off the setting sun when I decided that I had had enough of this endless road trip. After twelve hours of a bone-breaking drive on that day, that certainly went beyond twenty-four hours, my tormented body craved relief. I perceived that Martha was in the same mental and physical condition. We needed the peaceful sleep of some parallel time in reference to a bed, which bed we had in the back of our traveling home away from home. It was not homegrown, but it had nurtured our bodies for what now seemed to be a trek that would never end.

So in a moment of inconsiderate desperation, I made a unilateral decision … it would prove to be a bad decision, one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions that disrupt tranquil marriages. As was my normal bush custom when traveling alone, I often sought an off-road track that led to somewhere I assumed no man had ever gone before. At the time, I erroneously assumed that the two parties of this expedition would find some relief from such a road if we only ventured into the bush for just one last night. I turned off the main road. However, I failed to consult the other party of this expedition in order to reach some agreeable consent.

So I determined for myself—that was my mistake—that we would turn off the security of the main road and head aimlessly into the obscurity of a “Jurassic Park” wilderness. After all—I unfortunately reasoned—surely I was the head of this expedition and I had the right to determined personally that the existing party of two needed to make camp for the night. And also, was I not the head of this marital party? The headship part was right, but on this particular occasion the head became abnormally dysfunctional.

While traveling along on the main road with a destiny that would be our home, Martha and I had been dialoguing with one another about this and that. But something unexpectedly went wrong when I made that fatal turn onto a track off the main road into the unknown wilderness of bush and trees. In her fertile imagination I had just turned onto a pathway into the midst of wild animals that were salivating for an evening meal of delicate human flesh.

Therefore, after some time on my venture down this forgotten track into the wilderness, I suddenly came to a frightening realization. The previous dialogue of the party of two on the main road had now turned into a monologue. Martha went dead silent. I took a reality check of the situation and shockingly assessed that this was definitely not good.

I had been faithfully trained in the past that when this woman went silent, I had somehow forgotten to utter the two magic words of a successful marriage. At the time of my unilateral adventure to turn into the uncertainty of the bush, she had subjectively relented to the will of a determined mate who momentarily had forgotten the two magic words that preserve two people in the marital expedition for life.

Nevertheless, I doggedly persisted as white knuckles on the steering wheel revealed my dysfunctional determination. My reassuring monologue about the safety of our newly discovered “Jurassic Park” reaped no satisfaction from the one who was now my silent partner on this intrepid adventure.

In the deep twilight hours of the evening, I could faintly read Martha’s facial language. My discovery brought no peace of mind. Her stoic expression wordlessly shouted out that all my reassurance that we were safe to be in such an obscure place only proved to be words that were gone in the wind that blew dust across our pathway into oblivion.

I eventually started to come to some sense of sanity when I began to reason to myself that if both of us were devoured by creatures in this isolated sector of earth, no one would discover our vehicle and bones … ever. Our children would eventually have to sign death certificates that read, “Cause of death: Unknown. Place of death: Unknown.” The lyrics of the 1950s Kingston Trio singers sounded in my memory: “Did he ever return? No, he never returned. He was lost forever beneath the streets of Boston. He was the man who never returned.”

Seeking some reassurance in this now tested partnership, I continued to strain intensely through the twilight in a futile hope to discover even the slightest signal of approval on Martha’s face. But it was to no avail. She continued stoic. My reassuring monologue produced absolutely no glimmer of approval.

I then came to a forgotten realization. I immediately needed to behave what the two magic marital words would do to preserve this expedition. If I were not obedient to the action that these words demanded, I would get no sleep that night. I would toss and turn endlessly until I came to the eventual conclusion that I was in deep, deep trouble.

After not one brief peep came forth from the party with whom I had signed an expedition contract back in 1966 with the words “I do,” I frightfully realized that I had had a lapse of memory. I realized that I may have violated the contract. So I came to the conclusion that an immediate and certain decision had to be made that would salvage the happy atmosphere that I had enjoyed with the second party of this expedition unto this junction into the wilderness. Consequently, in my mind and heart I blurted out the magic words of a successful marriage, “Yes dear!” I then started the engine of our traveling cocoon, and speedily backtracked our way out of “Jurassic Park” and back onto the security of the main road toward civilization. The marriage contract was revalidated and preserved.

When we eventually arrived at the reassurance of the main road to continue our trek, my monotonous monologue gave way to a restored dialogue between the two partners of the expedition. Peace became the serendipity of two mates who could now continue on with their relentless homeward bound journey.

It was now dark and well into the time when the stars dominated the firmament of the heavens. Nevertheless, we toiled on. We continued to gruel on into the night. Both of us were now truly and totally wasted. We strained to discovery hope in what seemed to be an eternal darkness. As we surveyed the darkened horizon for some faint hope of civilization, we were almost at the point of despair.

And then discovery was realized. When we reached the peak of a hill on a road that seemed to have no end, we found hope in the dim lights of a far away village just this side of the horizon. We were both ecstatically overjoyed that now at last we had rediscovered civilization. Those lights revealed that there were human beings with whom we could reestablish our citizenship with humanity. There would be this night no lurking creatures under the cover of darkness who were seeking fresh meat.

So we meandered into this village or town that had itself long gone into dreamland. We were strangers seeking an inn, or campsite, or whatever among the narrow streets and alleys where we could camp and coma for the night. To this day I cannot recall the name of that village, or town, or whatever. I have no idea where we stopped and slept in the back of our home on wheels. All I know is that “Yes dear” had brought us to a place where sleep could be secured with a wife who was now resting in the arms of a husband who had behaved the two magic words of a successful marriage.

He had momentarily gone off the main road—had a lapse of memory—but he repentantly was now back into fulfilling a contract that long ago read, “To love and to protect.” All it took was “Yes dear,” and subsequently a restoration of peace was secured among the two parties of this lifetime expedition, or at least, “until death do us part.”

[Chapter from a forthcoming book.]

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