I guess I should have seen it coming. It was right under my nose and yet so disguised. The hints were everywhere. The fact that her dad could not be reached at his work so my dad was called to drive her mother to the hospital to deliver her. Did you catch that? My dad helped deliver the package that my three-year-old mind was oblivious to receive. This was the first clue. For now, however, the package was addressed to her parents to be kept, coddled, and cared for until she was delivered to her permanent address. She was anything but a welcome surprise to me then. She was only competition for my baby sitter’s attention. And besides that, she was a girl with cooties! Did you catch that? Her mom was my baby sitter.
How little did I know the improbable journey this package would make before arriving at my doorstep. First, her parents moved to New York, then my parents moved to Illinois when I was seven. I was in close proximity to my surprise for only ten months and I honestly don’t even remember it. This is not what little boys focus on. I was distracted by more important things. There were imaginary wars to fight with Minnesota snowballs, homes to build out of cardboard boxes and yes, eventually girls my age to crush on.
But we left all of that for Illinois. Later I learned that my destined package moved from New York, to Georgia, to Tennessee, and even spent a year in London England before landing in Missouri. I grew, made friends, and got an education without a clue that the course of my life would shift as the result of a cold 1967 October day in St. Paul Minnesota.
During my growing years, I saw the package a few times. Our parents were friends. She, however, was just a little girl to me. Three years younger is another category of being when one is a child.
And then it happened. Unsuspecting, I came home from Wheaton College for Christmas break and my pastor dad scheduled a guest speaker for New Year’s. The speaker was the man I earlier spoke about who was working when his baby was delivered. The speaker brought his family. He invited his eldest daughter onto the stage to do a puppet show for the children. I don’t remember anything about the puppet. I got short of breath. My heart raced. I saw a young woman in a red plaid jumper wearing a Parisienne cap with curly brown hair and magical eyes. Suddenly, our three year difference didn’t matter.
Two years later, her father walked her down a church aisle and delivered her to me as I waited impatiently to receive this package all wrapped in pure white because she had been kept safely and solely for me. This was holy ground.
Today is her birthday, October 24. We have been together for thirty one years. She is still stunningly beautiful and more importantly radiantly pure. Melanie Jean Bentley now Nordstrom was my October surprise.
Loving wife, nurturing mother, and impeccable character are inadequate words to describe her to you. Those who know her understand that I am not exaggerating. She is simply God’s greatest gift to me.
Today, Melanie , we will give you tokens of our appreciation far too inadequate to express what you mean to us, but YOU Melanie are and always will be the GIFT.