I took a call on a Sunday night. A woman inquired about pre-marital counseling. She and her boyfriend had been living together for over a year. To be certain that their planned wedding would be a success (his words she told me), they made an appointment for a first session.
Due to work schedules, they came at 6:00 p.m. A long day for me; probably for them, too. Austin and Janie came on time. We shook hands and Austin started to talk immediately.
“Thanks for seeing us. I don’t know if I can speak for Janie, but for myself, I’m kind of nervous.”
I took full advantage of sighting them as they sat close together. Janie’s facial expression initially read to me compassion.
I have a question. Whose idea was it to reach out for premarital counseling? Just wondering.
“We’ve been talking about it for several months. Do you agree Janie?”
“Yes, I agree. If you’re thinking why we took so long, we asked ourselves the same question.”
So the two of you are in agreement? I’d like to learn about your relationship. How long have you been together?
“We’ve been together for a year and a half. We’ve been living together about a year.”
Janie nodded in agreement.
Tell me something about yourselves. What are you each thinking that counseling may be of benefit? Janie, please.
“Well, OK. I’m 25 and I’ve been on my own since graduating high school. I come from a poor family. I have four siblings. We’re not exactly close; they all live in other states. They’re all older than me. One of my sisters helped raise me after mom and dad divorced. I lived with two of my sisters and my mom; my two brothers lived with dad. Money was tight. My one sister moved out and went to college out of state. The sister who helped raise me worked and brought home money. Mom worked two jobs and was gone a lot. I did o.k. in high school. I went to school to become a LPN. I have a job, which I like. I wish they paid better. People like to ask us how we met. This may sound weird to you. Well, I guess you’re not here to judge us, right?”
Yes, Janie. I’m not here to judge.
“Good, you see, I’ve never had any kind of counseling before. Maybe that’s why I didn’t look into premarital counseling sooner. Anyways, we met in a rehab where I worked. You’re going to laugh. Most people think Austin worked there, too. That’s not the case. He had back surgery. He can tell you about that. He was a patient. I worked second shift, which meant I passed meds along with my other duties. Austin was in a lot of pain. He asked me to read to him before bedtime. He told me that his mom and dad read to him when he was a kid. Thinking back, I think maybe he was flirting. We weren’t supposed to be too friendly with the patients. Austin was well liked by the staff. I look back and was proud that I could be caring and professional. Boundaries you know. I had good training. Austin’s rehab went well. A month or two after his discharge, he sent me flowers to the rehab. My supervisor questioned me about boundaries. There was no report of my crossing boundaries when Austin was my patient. A card that came with the flowers just said thanks for reading to him and being a caring soul. No one had ever said those words to me. He added his phone number to the card. Also, no one ever gave me flowers before. This was a whole new experience. I called him to say thanks for the flowers. He was polite and not pushy. He asked if he could call me just to talk. I hesitated and held off for a couple of months. I called him to ask how he was doing. How was his back? We agreed to meet for coffee. He was polite like I said and insisted on paying the tab. Fast forward, we met for a hike on this trail that was next to meadows filled with wild flowers. Hey, I’ve talked too much. Let Austin have his time.”
Austin’s eyes were riveted on Janie the entire time she spoke. Nice introductory body language.
“I’m glad that Janie told you about the flowers. You see, I grew up in a rich household. I had two siblings, one brother and one sister. I am forever linked lovingly with them and their families. My parents have been married 35 years. They work hard and taught us that lesion. I also went through high school, then college in the construction trades. I got hurt on the job, had my surgery, rehabbed, and returned to work in my dad’s company. He’s passing the company to my siblings and me. My parents also taught me about love. We didn’t attend any particular church. We talked about God a lot. We felt blessed with every ounce of goodness that came our way. I learned about the power of love. Those words and its true meaning was etched in my brain forever more. When I was in rehab, I prayed to God for healing. I did my praying silently. I was blessed with good people who aided in my healing. I did have some trouble sleeping. The staff was too busy to attend to a special need that I required. Only Janie made time to read to me at bedtime. My family visited often and had to leave well before bedtime. Both my parents read to all of us at bedtime. Mom used to tell us that good stories left a happy sleep-time and nice dreams. During my rehab, Janie’s voice was soothing and loving. I felt that’s why I sent her flowers. I have felt love my whole life. Janie coming into my life was no accident. That’s how I was raised. I was busy building a foundation for my life with work and a future. I have friends. I didn’t feel that chemistry people talk about with any woman until I met Janie in rehab. (Looks at Janie) I think I felt something extraordinary. I’m not sure if you realize, Janie, what you offer.”
What an introductory session. Let’s meet again, folks.
“Sounds wonderful. We have more to share with you about our vision.”
I look forward to it. Until we meet again next week, be well.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
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