Win Couchman - The Beds I Have Known
By Win Couchman
Once upon a time a princess… remember? Most of us are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea—and all those mattresses.
Throughout my life, I’ve had all kinds of beds. Currently, my mattress is a problem for me. I suffer from acid reflux and must sleep on a tipped-up mountain of mattresses to keep me from digestive disasters.
And then there were mine and Bob’s missionary-adventure beds. One in Australia so, so immaculate in its linens—so tightly tucked, as if by someone with a military background. And so small for two adult bodies… Oh, well.
Others, in Europe, were also little. Fortunately, though, there were often two of them in each bedroom. We became clever at turning each bed sideways and slamming them against each other to make us one fat bed. And since, thirty years ago in western Europe, most beds were made up with bottom sheets and down coverlets acting as a top sheet and blanket, we didn’t have to be puzzled about what to do with two narrow top sheets.
But long before our missionary years, when I was young and single and living at home, while Bob was off at war, I slept each night in my girlhood bedroom. I pretended that Bob was in my bed there—just out of reach. If only I pretended hard enough, I thought, I could pull him into my arms.
Half-way into World War II, Bob’s destroyer in the Pacific lost its bow. Because of wartime censoring I knew nothing. Surely Bob, my sweetheart, my beloved fiancé, was dead.
One night, I drove to the tiny theatre in our little town to watch a war movie to give me another excuse to cry. Half-way through the movie someone came down the aisle murmuring, “Winnie Harkness. Winnie Harkness. Winnie!” Someone needed me. I handed out ration coupons for emergency gasoline on behalf of the United States of America. I was supposed to be available twenty-four hours a day for those who were in the midst of some emergency. Frustrated, I stood up and stamped out.
Outside that heavy door stood Bob in his blues—alive! He was tired, but smiling with all the love in the world at me. Soon, we were wed, enjoyed a brief honeymoon, and back Bob went to finish the war. I went back to my girlhood bed and back to pretending that if I only pretended hard enough, I would touch his precious body. It was almost Bob. Almost.
Eventually, Bob came home. We had two children, he finished college, and that summer he got called back to the Korean War. I was back to “almost Bob.” But God brought him back home alive from that war, too. He brought him back to long sweet years in which we eventually moved from California to Wisconsin. Here, we lived a good life which took us through Bob’s retirement and then into four years as missionaries. Those years were filled with tremendous blessings from God on into our “oldness.”
We moved into a good facility for the aged and grew in our faith, loving each other and living in trust of God, and watching our grandchildren multiply—and then the amazement of greats. Bob’s memory loss took his fine technical mind and memory for a wild ride. Through it all, we learned to trust God more fully and to appreciate the available strength, youth, and love of our four marvelous children and their children.
Then, suddenly my body said clearly enough. Bob’s care would now have to be in someone else’s hands. What would it be like to separate after 72 years of being married to each other’s best friend and lover? How would God help us with this? We prayed a lot while Bob struggled to understand what he could not keep hold of with his failed memory.
October 12, 2015, which was Columbus Day, became for us “Move Bob Away from Win Day.” Scary. But, not only that. As the time got closer, God showed me new pictures from His Word. The wedding at Cana was a strong visual for me. The whole story centers around the wedding celebration running out of wine, with Jesus casually turning huge containers of water into the best wine of the day. Over and over again, God reassured me that He would make this season of our lives His best wine. That was easier for me because I could hold on to what God was saying. Although I shared it with Bob, he forgot. That is what you do when your memory is gone.
For the move, our son found Bob a nice new twin bed. The first Sunday of our separation, I went to his airy dining room to have noontime dinner with him. We then walked back to his room. With the move just past, he was tired. When I asked him, he said he would like to rest. So he took off his shoes and flopped on to his bed. Picking up a book, I read for few moments. Then suddenly I was given inspiration. I said, “Honey, would you like it if I took off my shoes and crawled up there beside you?” Bob shouted, “I would love it!” The minute I laid down beside him, he put his arms around me, put his head on my shoulder, and fell sound asleep.
I understood then how God was going to turn the water of our move into His best wine. Every time I visit Bob, we eat together, then we walk back to his new home. I lie down beside him; he puts his arms around me and, we are once more, completely what we have been all these years: two people who love each other with all their hearts, and free to spend the next half-hour in each other’s arms. Nothing to do but relax into the pattern of a good old marriage. We are both renewed and freshened. We are blessed. So many people have been kind to us, so many have prayed. And God has done what He promised—much better than “almost Bob.”