"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
October 3, 2012
Did I Miss Something?
by Marian Stoddard

We were supposed to leave between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m. Life was wearing us out a bit, so we took advantage of a chance to get away for a couple of days. Just the two of us, and the place was virtually free, because we needed to use up some points in our time-share exchange program before they expired. (We had bought into this program a long time ago, when times were better. We figured we might as well use it.)

There was an opening for two nights at a little town northeast of here, pretty country settled by the Dutch. The place had a golf course (we didn’t care) and a nice pool. Our company had bought into it when this new little resort hit trouble, ready to open just in time for the economy to crash a couple of years ago.

Our budget barely had room to cover the gasoline, so we wouldn’t be eating in the restaurants or doing anything extravagant. We planned to carry everything we could with us. Under the circumstances, it was a measure of my husband’s desperate need for a break that we were going to forgo a day and a half of paid work and take off. It was a three-hour drive and then only three miles to the Canadian border.

Then, between the reservation and our departure, two major problems arose. I was in an accident and hurt my back (which was already a problem), and a few days later he had a misstep boarding the commuter train and wrenched his knee.

It was laughable that I was suddenly the able-bodied member of the household. I could go up the stairs by gripping the banister and lifting the left foot and stepping up, bringing the right up to join it, pause, repeat for the next stair — very slow, tiring, and not to be done unless necessary. I was not dashing up and down on a whim! He couldn’t go up the stairs at all; he stayed downstairs and slept on the kind-of broken couch. We were supposed to take off in three days.

We wondered if we would have to cancel our plans, but it was his left knee and he claimed driving didn’t bother it, so we decided to go anyway. It would just be a quieter time. That was okay. Simple decompression was what we were really after.

I had planned and packed food, and meds, and clothes. We were taking my car, not his, but I couldn’t carry anything. I could only drive the car up onto the lawn as close to the front door as possible, and then wait for him to arrive. He was in Olympia (30 miles away) for the morning. The 10:30 docket should be quick, and we were scheduled to leave at 1:00p.m., with a cushion of an hour in case of trouble.

He didn’t call, he didn’t arrive until 3:00, and we still had to get gasoline. Things had not gone as planned at the courthouse, and we were really late. Instead of beating the traffic and arriving at our destination with time to arrange a leisurely dinner, we hit rush hour going north for both Seattle and Everett, and didn’t make the 6 p.m. closing time for the check-in desk. Calling for instructions, we managed to get the code on the lockbox to work on the third try, and we had an envelope with a key in hand.

Did I mention that we were tired? We were quite worn out, we were hungry, traffic and travel conditions had been wretched, and we were apparently on the third floor. I could walk better than he could, which wasn’t saying much, and I went to scope out the location of the elevator, which was at the end of the hall to the left.

There was an exterior door, but it had no keyswipe to get in from outside. However, one could park there, have someone (me) hold the door from the inside, and get our things (him) into the building.

Have you ever tried to carry a biggish cooler with crutches? Don’t; it can’t be done. He had to dispense with the crutches for that one, which was not good for him, and take very careful, painful, small steps. I could carry the very lightest things, if I blocked the door open for a moment; the cooler, painfully arrived at the doorway, was good for that.

If the door closed, I would have to walk back down to the other end, unlock the front door, walk down the length of the hall, and push the end door open again from the inside. Walking wasn’t my strong suit either at that point, so we were careful not to get locked out.

Piling the stuff outside the door, pulling it inside, a combination of pushing and carrying it, got us into the elevator, then we had to reverse the process to exit at the third floor.

Now, where was our unit — close, we hoped. Nope, it was down towards the other end again. Of course it was. Well, at least it wasn’t the very last door.

Fortunately, I had packed food that could just be heated up quickly for that first night’s dinner. We ate, collapsed, and figured out what we wanted to do in the morning. We wouldn’t go anywhere until he could go swim, and we hoped that we would feel better after we had a chance to sleep. Meanwhile, at least we were safely here — where’s my toothbrush? Oops, our bag was still in the car because he forgot we had put it in the trunk instead of the cab, so he had to go back out and get it.

The next morning he came back from his early swim and said, “Guess what? There are two luggage carts downstairs.” You mean bellhop-type trolleys, like in every movie hotel lobby scene? Yes, that’s what he meant. We must have walked right past them, carefully nestled against the wall to the right, just inside the door. We didn’t know to look for them, in a condo unit. If the desk had been staffed, I’m sure they would have pointed them out for us. Our whole focus had been locating the elevator.

Leaving was a whole lot easier than coming in — smooth as could be. It left me thinking, what help does our Father in Heaven have for us, just sitting there, ready to offer, that we rush right past without seeing? How many of our frustrations would be avoided, our moments of panic unnecessary, If we checked in with him first, and talked with him as we went along, instead of only after all else failed? If we stopped to listen more? Probably a lot.

I’ll try to remember that.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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