December 29, 1996 message
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland  USA
(originally used December 9, 1990)
based upon 2 Peter 3:8-15a

What follows is a series of letters written back and forth, leading up to a trip home for Christmas. Try to imagine.....

August 2,

Dear Mom & Dad,

Hi! Just a note to ask about Christmas this year. How about us flying east this time. I know, it's been a while. You've always had to do the travelling. The kids want to know if it snows in Baltimore. Guess it's about time we showed them. Everyone hear sends their love.

Your son, Henry.

August 10

Dear Henry, Monica, & esp. Jillian & Joshua

We can't think of anything we'd rather do than have our family home for Christmas. This was just the push GrandDad needed to get the guest room completed. You know how long GrandMom has been after him to finish it. We will put in a special order for snow on Dec. 24. That's a cooling thought on a hot summer's day. Take care, all of you.

Much love, us.

October 5

Dear Mom & Dad,

We may need to change some of our plans. Things aren't going so well. Maybe Christmas won't work out this year.

Love, Henry.

October 9

Dear Mom & Dad,

Thanks for your call. Sorry you had to get my number from Mona. I should have told you I moved out. Our marriage has not been what it should for a long time now. This didn't happen overnight. I guess you know that. Thanks for your support. It means alot. But there's more to say.

I never could lie to you. I still remember the time I tried to convince you & Mona's folks that we didn't hitch-hike to New York. What is it about a mother that can see right thru a son?

There's someone else involved. I didn't go out looking for her. It just sort of happened. Meredith is a very sweet person. I think you'd like her. No, I didn't move in with her. My friend, Bill, had some extra space. This is where I am, for now.

Please don't think this all started with another woman. Our relationship has gotten progressively worse for a while now. I think our separation would've happened no matter what.

Well, I guess Christmas was just a pipe dream this year. Old fashioned holidays just don't happen any more, do they? You better cancel the order for snow. I love you.

Your son, I hope, Henry

October 14

Dear son,

You always will be our son, no matter what happens. Your letter took us back a bit, but it was not a total suprize. You were right about a mother's intuition. If I had a dollar for every time she said this past week: "George, something else is wrong," there'd be enough to fly out to L.A. tommorrow. Thank you for your honesty.

Your mother asked that I write to you. She wants to come up with a letter to Monica, herself. That might not suit you, but it's best not to argue with her once her mind is made up. Here goes my epistle.

How well I remember the day we stood up in church with this tiny infant. It still amazes me when I think of you as a grown man, someone who was once so small and fragile. We promised on that day to raise you to the best of our abilities, to teach you about right and wrong, but more so, to pattern for you a living relationship with God. We promised to keep connected to the church as we raised you, recognizing that on our own power, our parenting abilities would fail.

I share this with you not to call your upbringing into question, tho' it seems to be the curse of parenting to go back & wonder what we could have done differently. I believe we did a pretty decent job. You are a fine man.

I recall that moment in time to urge you to do your own reflecting. There are other moments to remember. The day you were baptized. Your wedding day. The days you dedicated Jillian, and then Joshua to the Lord.

Forgive me, but I was frightened that your last letter did not mention my grandchildren. I'm sure this was just an oversight. Or was it. In what ways are you being faithful to the vows you made concerning them? I hope that doesn't feel like an under-the-belt punch, but this is more than just a matter of Monica verses Meredith, as you yourself wrote. If I might venture a guess, have you been pulling back from church. Why do I ask?

25 years ago your mother and I nearly untied the knot. Does that surprize you? It was really rough. Our relationship was a succession of fights, tho' we tried not to argue in front of you and your sister. Maybe you remember, we stopped going to church for a while. I forget how we explained it to you, but to us it felt so hypocritical to keep going to church when our marriage was in such bad shape. I was told later that it is not unusual for people to back away from church just at the tine they need it most.

Anyway, there thankfully were some folks who noticed our absence. They reached out to us. To this day I thank God for Mike, who took the time to talk with me alone, and us together. Perhaps because he was a divorcee himself, he understood. He gathered a few others around us to support us thru this time, to help us place our marriage & family, our troubles into a larger perspective. We weathered that storm, tho' I have no doubt they would have stood by us had we failed.

No, there was no other woman, Henry. But that doesn't mean that if circumstances had presented themselves, I wouldn't have fallen as you have. I am human, too. I trust you've realized that by now. I'm sure Meredith is a sweet person. I have a sneaking suspicion she is alot like Monica, somewhat like your mother.

I don't write all this to moralize. But I did promise long ago to teach you the difference between right and wrong. You are a man, now, & need to find your own path thru this. I realize there is alot of gray area in life. It doesn't need to be created. I pray there are those nearby who can be for you Christ's hands at this time. I have a suspicion they are there, but perhaps you have pushed them away. I have faith in a patient God who continually is reaching out to bring reconciliation.

The invitation is still there for Christmas, however you choose to answer it. We will not cancel our order for snow. By the way, there is no such thing as an "old fashioned holiday." Each year we celebrate in a new way how God is fashioning us into what he wants us to be.

I love you son, & I always will. Dad.

October 15

Dear Monica,

I have been thinking of you and Jillian and Joshua so much this past week. I love you as if you were my own daughter, tho' I know I could never be to you as your own mother. Please know George and I support you, no matter what happens.

Henry has told us some things. There is probably much more to be said. Wondering how much everybody knows makes communication difficult. That can't be helped. You know our phone number. I don't wish to force my support. Know it is here.

I remember the day you were married, as vividly as if it were yesterday. The hardest part for me was when the minister read those words from St. Paul. "For a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." Even tho' I was tremendously happy, the sadness of that leaving, that separating of someone who was once a part of me, was intense. The sadness I now feel is like that. Could it be at all similar to some of what you are feeling now?

We are not here to take sides. I cannot stop loving you, just as I cannot stop loving my son. My first prayer is that somehow your marriage will survive. This union between a husband & a wife is still a mystery to me, even after 37 years of marriage. But it needs work, and help from above, as well as beside. My second prayer is that your family will survive, even if your marriage does not. Jillian and Joshua deserve at least that much.

Monica, the invitation is still extended for Christmas. GrandDad is still working on the guest room, & will have it done by then. At least he better. Whether it is 1, 2, 3, or 4 who use it, doesn't matter. Our doors will always be open. If it won't work out, we understand. But the order for snow on Dec. 24 has been made, and won't get recalled.

Take care of yourself, Monica. Give our grandchildren hugs and kisses for us. Let us know if a trip your way would be helpful. Much love. Martha.

October 23

Dear Martha & George,

Thank you for your letter. I have felt your support over the years, and continue to. No matter whatever happens, our relationship will still be there, I promise. I'm sorry Los Angeles is so far from Baltimore. It's far from my folks, also. Grandparents are so important, & I mourn that closeness for my own children. You will never be replaced as GrandDad and GrandMom. I will be in touch about a visit.

My Mom sends her greetings to you. She may visit us soon. About Christmas, thanks for renewing the invitation. I don't know what will happen. Things have progressed pretty far, I don't know if they can turn around, nor if I really want them to. I and the kids have started back to church, & I have been surprized by the caring of people. Sometimes I have hope. I don't know. Henry and I have talked ... some.

Christmas may be a bit too uncomfortable, but I'd like to see if the kids, at least, can come, maybe even visit both grandparents. You'd better make sure there is some snow on the ground. Joshua has been telling all his friends about it. I think it is something he is holding on to during this uncertainty.

Thank you. Love, Monica.

November 24

Dear Mom & Dad,

My feelings are mixed as I write this. In a way, what you said in your letter, Dad, was just what I expected you would say. Strangely, it was a comfort to know you that well, that you knew me that well. All this doesn't mean it didn't make me angry. It's taken me this long to write back to you. I didn't trust calling you, for fear I would say something I didn't really want to say.

I must confess your "hunches" were all on target. I wish they weren't. Whoever said mothers were the only ones with a sense of intuition had it only half right. Yes, we stopped going to church last spring. It just sort of happened. Schedules got busier, school activities and then little league. You know. It was so easy. But no one seemed to notice. But you were also right that someone did. I ran across one of the guys in church that I knew, & we got to talking over coffee. As it worked out, I discovered it wasn't quite by chance that we met.

Perhaps the hardest hunch for me to swallow was that Meredith & Monica were alot alike. At first I denied it, but y'know, it is true. At least the Monica I fell in love with. The part about them being like Mom felt funny, but it may be true. Meredith, Monica, Martha. Good grief, they all even begin with "M". Kinda eery.

Yes, reminding me about my baptism, my wedding, the dedication of our kids - it did feel like hitting below-the-belt. I didn't mean to not mention Jillian & Joshua. I think about them all the time. It's tearing me apart. I have not forgotten my promise to God for them. Nor have I forgotten my other commitments. It is just very confusing right now.

You will be happy to know that I am no longer seeing Meredith. I don't feel so happy about it. I hurt yet one more person. I am tired of hurting.

Does the invitation for Christmas still stand? I feel a real need to come home. Monica would like the kids to visit both sets of grandparents. Is the guest room ready? You haven't cancelled the order for snow, have you. Joshua will be awful unhappy if he doesn't get to build a snow man. Bye for now.

Love, Henry.

December 1

Dear Henry,

Yes, the invitation still stands. The guest room of our home will be ready, just as the guest room of hearts will be prepared for the coming of our Lord. If that doesn't make much sense, Henry, just come. GrandDad will make sure there is snow, even if he has to rent a machine to make it.

Much love, us.

December 15

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a note to fill you in on our arrangements. We will be arriving next Saturday, at BWI, 4:55 pm, Pan Am flight 236. Monica's folks will meet us there also, to take her to DC. We'll meet half-way on Christmas Day to exchange the kids. If you wouldn't mind, she & I might take a couple day trips, just to talk. Pray for us. Joshua was excited to see that a blizzard is heading your way. Get ready.

Looking for to coming home,

your son, Henry.

1990, 1996 Peter L. Haynes
Published in November 1995 issue of Lighthouse Fiction Collection (Vol. 10, no. 3)

return to "Messages" page

return to Long Green Valley Church page