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Dating Nancy - Long Distance, Long Drama
By Evan Nehring
If I’d had my druthers—and always beware a fellow who gets his druthers—I’d have been married in my early twenties. The funny thing about relationships is that both people need to get their druthers in order for things to proceed. That’s tricky.
Falling HardAfter several fun dating experiences in college, I picked up on a long distance relationship at the end of my pastoral internship in Stevens Point. It was the beginning of my senior year. Head-over-heels doesn’t do justice to the acrobatic depths to which I fell. From my noticing her to declaring my affections…a month. From the declaration of affections to the departure from town…a few short hours. Instantly we began a long-term, long-distance love.
Driving, two-hundred miles
It’s great to have you but I wanna hold you now
Sunset in my rear view mirror
It’s a breathtaking sight but what I wanna see
Lies two-hundred miles in front of me
Goodbye again, I put down the receiver
Goodbye again, I sign my name with love
As I slip out of your driveway
It’s your face that I see
Girl you’ve got to know my deepest
Desire for you and me
Is to never say goodbye again
It’s to never say goodbye again (Fall 1990)
Life with her was wonderful, until it wasn’t. I never did understand why things would fall apart from time to time. Maybe I just wanted it to work too badly. The hard part is that I fell in love not just with her, but with her family. Her God-loving parents worked hard and kept a small country home on a wooded acreage. Little brother and little sister were fun and goodhearted. Even the dogs made it feel like home.
Busted UpI remember leaving her place to return to Minneapolis. We had broken up late the night before. She walked with me awkwardly to my little red Renault Alliance. I was upset. As I reached for the car door, a mirror slipped out of my bag and smashed into pieces on the icy driveway. What a mess.
I probably shouldn’t have been driving on the interstate, but the waterworks stopped after a while and I made it back to my apartment on Portland Avenue, downtown Minneapolis. The drama! And it was far from over. We had good days together again. The flame would rekindle and we would reunite. I don’t miss the angst.
A kind lady named Lucille gave me a room on East Avenue for a while when I was youth pastoring. Her husband had passed on some years before and she chose to stay in a small bedroom and give me the master bedroom. When my drama was bad, I would lie on the bed, throw some David Sanborn quietly on the boombox, and hurt.
Day after day, week after week, I went to work to be there for people, and then would go home and feel 10,000 pounds come to rest on my spirit. Sanborn’s Another Hand album has some of the most mournful sax improvisation you’ve ever heard. I played it to resonate with my abdominal cavity of pain.
Looking back now, it was OK. I didn’t distract myself or medicate myself. I just felt it. My spirit needed to mourn for a season. God has a way of coming to people who are broken. Over the next several months God began to heal me and come close to me in some really great ways.
ProposalBack on the upswing, Nancy and I were rolling along with our relationship well enough that I thought, it’s now or never. Either we tie the knot or we perpetuate this ridiculous drama forever. I didn’t have a ring. Though I’d gladly have shopped for one, it seemed more sudden, surprising and passionate without it.
My plan was set, but I had to muster my courage. I stopped at Copp’s grocery store on Division Street and bought grape juice and a Kaiser roll. Quietly, prayerfully, I took the elements in a private communion ceremony. I was ready.
No one was at the church at that late hour, so I brought her to the front of the crimson sanctuary and sat down at the dimly lit black concert grand piano. There were just two songs. First, the Unchained Melody:
Oh, my love, my darlingThen it was Brian Adams’ Everything I Do:
I’ve hungered for your touch for a long, lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
Look into my eyes, you will seeHer answer was, “Not now.” It would never be now.
What you mean to me
Search your heart, search your soul
And when you find me there you’ll search no more
Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for
You know it’s true
Everything I do, I do it for you
She did part of her training for medical technology in Marshfield at St. Joseph’s hospital, half an hour from Stevens Point. I visited her there once and we went for a walk at their little zoo.
I said, “No one will ever love you like I do.”
She said, “I know.”
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