By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Something unusual has emerged in the Arland-Fye household. My husband Steve and I now eat dinner together daily, an unanticipated blessing from God in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. During this time of crisis, when many families struggle to put food on the table, I am reminded to give special thanks for dinnertime with Steve.
In all the years of our marriage, we will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary on Memorial Day, dinner together has usually been limited to the weekends with our sons. Even when they were children, I usually had reporting or editing duties for the newspaper that kept me away from the dinner table until long after everyone else had eaten. Steve loves to cook, so he prepared dinner for himself and our kids unless he was on the road as a locomotive engineer.
Steve and I did not have family living in the area, so we alternated schedules during those child-rearing years that passed so swiftly. When he had to catch a train that kept him away from home for a couple of days, my friend Marcia helped with dinner or I rushed home to make sandwiches for the boys. I remember one evening when Patrick, then in first or second grade, looked up at me longingly as I prepared dinner and said, “Do you know when Dad will be home?”
Another evening, while slicing a bagel, I sliced my thumb. Steve was on a train 300 miles away and the boys, then 3-½ and 11, couldn’t help me stop the bleeding. Colin, the 11-year-old, whose autistic mind focused on his needs, asked in the midst of this mini crisis if he could have something to eat. Dinner could be a harrowing experience in our household!
Even before God blessed us with our sons, Steve and I rarely shared dinner together because my chosen career in journalism often meant work on evenings and weekends. Meals shared together were special times in those first two years of marriage when we focused on how we hoped to live out the sacrament. Now we have an opportunity to revisit our appreciation for the sacrament.
The Catholic Messenger’s offices are located in the diocesan headquarters in Davenport, which have been closed since mid-March in an effort to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Working remotely from home has required adjustments but I remain thankful to be employed in a career I love and to have dinnertime with Steve.
My home office is a spare bedroom with a dresser that has a diaper-changing table attached. It makes a great surface for my laptop! When I’m ready for dinner, I leave the office in search of Steve, who is retired and keeps busy with a myriad of projects in and outside the house. Dinnertime is gradually becoming our tradition, our time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
In his resource for couples preparing for marriage, “For Better & For Ever,” Father Robert Ruhnke, C.SS.R., writes “The first and fundamental element of marital spirituality is to develop the value of service and friendship in a relationship with one’s partner. In Christian marriage, one does not marry to gain a ‘free cook’ or someone to ‘bring home the bacon.’ One marries to share the love, graces and talents that God has given each of us with one’s partner.”
I didn’t marry Steve to gain a “free cook” or to “bring home the bacon.” But we are rediscovering the value of service and friendship around dinnertime.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)