Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grilled Tuna Melt Sandwich

Someone at work asked me one day  the secret to the  success of my 30+ years of wedded bliss for a total of 35+ years with the same guy.  My initial response was my personal relationship to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, but she wasn't satisfied with that answer.  She wanted a more specific response.  Something more believable.  More ACT-ON-able.  After three months, I've finally come up with one good response:  Grilled tuna melt sandwich.  I'm not too crazy about making a grilled tuna melt sandwich (GTMS).   

At first I counted making a GTMS a privilege.  When we first started dating and Jim told me he really liked it, I learned how to make it by watching his mom prepare it for customers at the cafe his parents owned.  Then I would go home and try it out on my brother and his best friend, who were more than happy to be my tuna melt guinea pigs.  Once I perfected my technique, later in our relationship, I would make it and take it to his work for his lunch.  I made it for him at least once a week for at least a year.

After we got married, and I was working two jobs and going to college, my tuna melt making days dwindled to once or twice a month until the kids came.  Then I would make them for the whole family.  One day I noticed that the kids would scrape off all the tuna, and it was then I realized that I could actually shave a few steps AND a few minutes in prep time by altogether foregoing the tuna and just making grilled cheese sandwiches, which the kids seemed to like better, and Jim didn't seem to mind.

One Saturday, as I was making grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, Jim asked, "Could you make mine a tuna melt?"  At first I was irritated, because it required dirtying a bowl,  a grilling pan, and several utensils; two slices of perfectly buttered-on-both-sides bread, a can of drained albacore tuna, mayonnaise, and a slice of American cheese.  It also involved making sure one side of each slice is grilled just enough to melt the butter, while the other side is grilled to just to the right golden crisp, while making sure the tuna is not too hot, but the cheese is melted just right.  Annoyed as I was, I made it anyway.  From that day, whenever the kids got grilled cheese sandwiches, Jim got a grilled tuna melt sandwich made JUST the way he liked it.

One day, about ten years into our marriage, Jim did something that hurt me, and he knew it, but he didn't do anything about it right away.  He just went about his usual chores, as if nothing were wrong.  After a few (ok, MANY MANY) minutes of seething, stewing, and storming, I did what I usually do after many many minutes of seething, stewing, and storming:  I sought Scripture,  and to be honest, I did NOT like what I found.  In essence, I was supposed to PRAY FOR the person being mean to me, be kind to him, do something nice for him without expecting anything in return, use a soft answer, and use words fitly spoken.  NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR, LORD!  

Then, in a what sounded like a whisper, I heard, "Make him a grilled tuna melt sandwich."

"I don't think I heard you right, Lord.  That, or YOU didn't hear me right.  HE was mean to ME, for no reason.  I am the victim here, God."

"Make him a grilled tuna melt sandwich."

"But Lord, I am so mad at him, I don't even want to be in the same room with him, let alone make him his favorite lunch!"


So I made him a grilled tuna melt sandwich.  In the process, I recalled the other times I made it for Jim:  the first few times when he came over for lunch, on Saturdays when he worked at the tennis courts, at the beach while camping...as I gathered the ingredients, put them together, and prepared them over the heat of the stove, I was reminded of all the great times I risked throwing away if I chose to let my anger control my actions. By the time each side was just the right touch of golden crisp and the cheese was melted, so was my icy heart.  

I made a grilled cheese sandwich for myself, and then I took both sandwiches and two glasses of Kool-Aid on ice out to where Jim was.  His eyes lit up in surprise when he saw the GTMS.  He set down his rake, took the tray and set it on the nearby picnic table, and held open his arms.  I walked into them, and he wrapped them around me, and said, "I'm sorry for being a jerk."

From then on, whenever we would get in a fight and it was CLEAR that Jim was in the wrong, I would make him a GTMS.   It helped me move the focus from feeding  MY anger and to feeding HIS hunger.  The process gave me time to cool down, and helped me remember what was important. 

So, if she were to ask me again today the secret to the longevity of my marriage, I would say without hesitation:  Grilled tuna melt sandwich.

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