There’s something that I’ve noticed between my Mother and my Father.
I see it happen every once in a while though I’m sure it’s escaped my notice more often than not.
The first time I noticed it was on a Sunday morning when I was 11 years old.
My Father was preaching, as he always did on Sundays, and while he spoke, with a barely noticeable pause, his eyes stopped scanning back and forth across the congregation and fixed momentarily on something. For a sliver of a slice of a second he stayed his gaze on something, before moving on to continue connecting with his congregants.
It was momentary and fleeting, but I noticed and looked to see what had stopped him. Sitting directly where he had looked was my mother; her eyes fixed on him as he delivered his spoken word. I watched her watching him, following his every gesture and anticipating the key points that he had no doubt run by her the night before.
As I was watching her, it happened again. His eyes met with hers for a fraction of a second. When they did she was ready: waiting. Her chin tipped up slightly and her eyebrows lifted. She didn’t smile but her body almost imperceptibly expanded; as if she had not been breathing and then, all of a sudden, had realized that fact and quickly inhaled to compensate for the lack of air.
When she did this I noticed something change on my Father’s face: A few subtle creases on his forehead disappeared. The strain of focus and intention necessary to deliver the words he held had been weighing on his face and I could see that in the moment that he saw my mother, that strain eased.
I watched this happen several more times and wondered what exchange was taking place.
As the years passed I continued to see this exchange happen. Once at a dinner with a couple whose marriage was struggling; and another time, at a funeral for the wife of a dear friend. I often saw versions of it during our family “pow-wows” and again, on the day that my sister got married.
Though I had become familiar with their interchange, I had never really understood it until after I was married. I got my first glimpse of what was actually happening between my parents when I stood one evening to speak before a large group of people. It wasn’t the first time that I had ever spoken publicly, but this time was different: because my wife was there.
And it was then that I understood.
I understood that each time the weight of life bore down on my Father he looked to my Mother and her glance was all he needed to carry on.
I understood that my Father had not carried the title of Pastor, or marriage counselor, or businessman, or father, or protector alone. That in every endeavor that he made and every weight that he bore, my mother was quietly and firmly holding him steady; raising his arms and strengthening his spirit.
Whatever is known about the Hulet name, is what it is because the two of them, together, have created and sustained something that neither one of them could have created or sustained alone.
And so I’ll continue to watch for the glance, for the exchange that happens, as they leave behind what they have known and venture forward into their next calling. And I know that they will undertake it as they always have undertaken everything. Boldly and confidently, with freedom, and tenderness, and strength, and compassion, and bravery…..in exactly the same manner as they always have: together.