Returning from the fringe series
There was one other factor that arrested my downward decline in Madison. It was my friend, Martha. At that time, I don’t think either Martha or I knew just how significant our friendship was.
We met while we worked part-time at the campus cafeteria, and, somehow we just began spending time together. It is hard to describe our friendship then. We did a lot of things together. We would ride our bikes to the eastside, the westside, all around Lake Mendota and up the promontory where we got one of the finest views of the lake. Or, in summer, sit by the lake, just chatting, our feet dipping into the cold waters of Lake Mendota. Or, walk to the farmer’s market and get a taste of fresh, wholesome local American produce.
Sometimes, we would go to the popular Baker’s Room for coffee and croissant or anything else we fancied, and on the way back look into some of the shops. She discovered another place which served coffee and really rich all-American cakes, which we also frequented.
We also liked to watch some of those left-leaning type plays. I remember one play we attended by an all-women cast on the denuding effects of going nuclear. To illustrate the point, a few of the actresses performed in the nude in some scenes. There was not one act of misbehaviour from the audience. It was a learning experience!
On another occasion, on a summer day after our shifts, we sat outside the cafeteria just hanging out. Some people were swimming and one woman in a bikini got out of the water and walked across to the other side. Martha commented: “Three little triangles and nobody bats an eyelid!”
Ya, I thought suddenly becoming aware — nobody batted an eyelid! There was no discussion on it. But, I caught her perspective. I can’t remember us having an intellectual discussion on anything. Frankly, I can’t remember what we talked about! But my fondest memories of Madison are the times I spent with Martha.
I had other friends in Madison and back home, but at that point in my life no one was there like she was. She was the only one I could cry with. I, myself, didn’t know then what I was going through and couldn’t articulate it. Martha, herself, has her past and understood estrangement, and, maybe, she sensed something was not quite right with me or maybe she didn’t, but she accepted me as I was. For me, though, more than she accepted me, what mattered was that she was there.
At the lowest point in my life, when everything was falling apart, she was there. I dread to imagine what might have happened if she hadn’t been there. I am thankful to God that I didn’t experience that. And, that is why I say that Martha was a Godsend.
There has not been anyone like her before or after Madison. I have other very good friends, but at that point in my life, when the storm was raging about me, and I was going down under, she was there in my boat. Martha with her simple faith and great giving heart was the sleeping Christ in my tossing boat. I may not have known it then but, looking back, I believe I didn’t go down under because she was my one link with humanity. The ride becomes a little more bearable when someone is in the boat with you.
That’s a picture of us at my graduation. Martha had finished her master’s in social science but didn’t go for the graduation ceremony. She wore my robe and mortar board and that’s us laughing about it! (Yes, I looked a mess then!) Soon after graduation, she met Dan (who is now a professor in marine biology with Oregon State University, Corvallis) and they got married. That’s a picture of her lovely family now. Their eldest son is Tyler (front, right). Soon after he was born, they adopted a Korean boy, Ken (front, left) and their youngest is Nathan (back, right).
I am very happy for her and thank God for what she has.
NEXT FRI: Back home: Catching my breath on familiar ground