By Barb Arland-Fye
When I arrived home from work one evening last week, Steve announced that a tow truck had hauled away his faithful companion, a 2001 Honda Accord. Proceeds from the parts that were salvageable would become a donation to a National Public Radio affiliate.
Steve felt sad having to let go of the gold Accord, a feeling that matched mine when I had to part with my 2003 Volkswagen Beetle, held together with gorilla tape, a couple of years ago.
“Twenty-one years and 300,000 miles. It still had the original clutch,” Steve told me, even though I knew those details because he announced every milestone he marked with his steadfast traveling companion over the years. “I was hoping to get another 50,000 miles, at least,” he said. “It was running good; it just didn’t want to start sometimes.” Take, for instance, the morning the tow truck driver picked it up. I’m sure Steve told the tow truck driver, just as he told me, “It was a reliable car, it got 36 miles a gallon.”
The loss of an inanimate object, like a car, in no way compares with the loss of a loved one, friend, colleague or beloved pet. Steve didn’t love his car in the way he loves me, our children, his siblings and other families and friends. However, this vignette speaks to some of the qualities I have witnessed in Steve that nurture and sustain the relationships he has created and helps to thrive.
All of these qualities have a solid foundation in faith, which Steve embraced and began nurturing when we married in the Catholic Church. When our first son, Colin, received a diagnosis of autism at age 3, Steve accepted the responsibility of the extra care the disability required. It meant shifting his work schedule and setting aside his love for road trips as a locomotive engineer to spend more time with our son to help him to master skills that came much easier for other children. I smile thinking about the way Steve taught Colin to tie his shoelaces like bunny ears. It was a different technique than I taught, but Colin loved the bunny ears.
Steve provided assurance and encouragement during my pregnancy with our second son, Patrick. What would happen if this child also had autism? Steve said we would love him as much as we loved Colin. Patrick did not have autism but his sensitive nature caused some challenges in childhood. Steve helped alleviate our sons’ challenges by nurturing a passion for trains. They became rail fans who enjoyed short getaways with Dad to watch and comment on train traffic.
In retirement, Steve leads a busy life of volunteerism but always responds to a call from family, friends, parishioners or anyone else needing a hand or a shoulder to lean on. Generally, he has the patience of a saint, except when it comes to computer glitches or the driving skills of others on the road.
From the beginning of our marriage, Steve insisted we had to settle any disagreements or arguments before going to bed that night. Open, honest and patient dialogue is essential to relationships and Steve expects all of us to practice these skills.
In his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” (“The Light of Faith”), Pope Francis said, “Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. As we experience the mercy of God the Father, it sets us on the path of brotherhood” (No. 54).
Faith, absorbed and deepened in our family, illumines all of Steve’s relationships; too bad, he couldn’t apply that to his Accord.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)