I am writing this note from our room at Word of Life Inn in Schroon Lake, New York. Marlene and I arrived this afternoon after two bumpy flights from Tupelo to Atlanta to Albany. On the drive to the Inn we noted the spectacular fall colors–brown, burnt orange, rust, red, maroon, yellow, cinnamon–covering the trees on both sides of the road.
We are here for the Fall Couples Conference. Marlene and I are sharing the speaking in each session. That would usually mean that I would talk for a while, then she would talk for a while, then I might talk again, then she might talk again. But we’re doing it in a conversational format, like a back-and-forth dialogue, almost as if we’re standing at the podium talking over the topic. We’ve never done that before, and in the room beforehand we prayed that the Lord would help us, and it seemed like that prayer was answered. Let me just say that Marlene is tremendous in this format. Once we got started, she was really the star of the show. She smiles, interjects comments, laughs, and in general just carries us along. Even though we were following a script, we varied from it, paraphrased it, and added to it in many places. Tonight we called our talk, "Marriage is a Can Opener," after something an elderly gentleman told us on the night we got married in 1974. We told the folks (there are about 250 at the conference) that their homework is to "laugh a lot" this weekend, and I think most people are doing just that. Tomorrow morning we’re talking about "Arrows From Heaven," tomorrow night Marlene speaks to the women while I speak to the men, and on Sunday morning we wrap things up with a talk called "Curing the Itch Mites."
After the evening session Mike Bush (who heads up Word of Life Inn) emceed the "Newlywed Game" featuring eight or nine couples from the audience, including Marlene and me. Younger readers may not remember this game show from the 70s that featured newly-married couples answering questions to find out how well the husband and wife know each other. Marlene told me about four times before we started that I should think hard because she knows I tend to forget details. Let’s just say her words were prophetic. Mike sent the women out and the men had to answer four questions, such as "If you were gone on a trip, which would your wife most prefer: A) curl up by a fire reading a book, B) getting a manicure and a massage, C) going shopping with her girlfriends?" (I said reading a book and that was the right answer). Here was one that tripped me up: "Which of the following gifts would your wife most like to receive from you: A) Flowers, B) Chocolates, C) Jewelry?" My first thought was flowers, but then I thought jewelry so that’s what I said. Marlene said flowers. Here’s a potential trick question: "Who will your husband say is the better cook: You or his mother?" I was surprised by the number of guys who said "My mother." Now my mom was an excellent cook, but Marlene has been cooking in our home for 33 years. I got that one right. Then there was this quesiton. "Which phrase best describes your wife’s driving: A) Indy 500, B) Demolition Derby, C) Slow as Molasses?" I knew the answer was B (partly because on the way to the Inn Marlene told Mike and Amy Bush about a few of her, ahem, mishaps on the road), but she said A (which actually might be more true of me). At the halfway point, we were tied for last place. Then they sent the men out and asked the wives four questions.
Here’s a good one. "Which would your husband prefer to do? A) Go sky-diving, B) Drive an Indy Car, C) Swim with the sharks." One guy said swim with the sharks and so did his wife. I said, "Go sky-diving" and got that one right also. And then there was this one. "Which kind of car would your husband like to drive? A) Restored hot rod, B) Sports car, C) Monster truck, D) Luxury car?" Marlene leaned over and said, "Think about it." So I did. I’m not a hot rod man, I like sports cars and luxury cars, but our favorite show is "Ice Road Truckers," so I said "Monster truck" and got it right. The following question made me feel guilty. "When was the last time you forgot an event or a date that was important to your wife?" I couldn’t recall if I had forgotten our anniversary or her birthday lately so I said, "Birthday" but she said, "He never forgets important dates," which was a grace-filled answer to be sure. When the scores were tallied, we had crawled out of the basement and ended up in next to last place. All in all, I felt like we held up our end pretty well. The winning couple has been married for 45 years. Marlene said we’ll be as good as them in 12 more years.
After the game we all adjourned to the Garden Cafe for "make your own ice cream sundaes." The Couples Conference is off to a great start.