Myron and Myrna
After rejecting gospel appeals, some people become incapable of hearing
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The proximity of houses on my street is such that in summer you can hear conversations through the open window if they get heated enough. It was almost a rite of spring for years that at 6 a.m. we could hear Myron and Myrna (not their real names) start arguing.
And such arguing! This was not your run-of-the-mill marital spatting. This had dramatic flair, each comeback a soliloquy, each soliloquy an arabesque of rhetoric accorded its space without interruption from the other until fully delivered, as in a real Shakespeare play. It was evident to me that each was not only speaking but listening to himself speak, and enjoying the sound of it.
They were, in fact, actors in local playhouses, though he the major and she the minor with occasional bit parts. They had no children, he edited medical textbooks, they took French conversation classes downtown, and they must have had an open marriage because there was a period in the early years when she would take off to Australia to stay with some man she was infatuated with.
We socialized with them infrequently, but over 35 years infrequently adds up. It was sufficient to learn a few biographical details, especially about Myron’s stint in the Peace Corps, which he always circled back to, the way some men return to their wartime experience for the rest of their lives. Myron and Myrna were emphatically and insistently secular Jews, he by conviction, and she (I sensed) because her husband was.
I remember a particular incident in which Myrna waxed on in the driveway about John Stuart Mill, and I nodded knowledgeably. By the end of the day I couldn’t live with myself and crossed the driveway and knocked on her door and told her the truth, that I didn’t know squat about J.S.M. To which she looked embarrassed, in a way that made me think she doesn’t know squat about J.S.M. either.
At the beginning of COVID when the hospitals were first closing to visitors and people were dying alone, Myron landed in there for a non-COVID illness, and I went up to see him through a hallway door that nobody was watching, wanting to give him the gospel one last time and do a better job of it. But he was on a ventilator, and though I talked and prayed a bit before someone from the nursing station escorted me out, I could see that Myron already wasn’t inside that body, that it was just the machine breathing.
It had already been years since the parties had died down and the cars had stopped coming, those gatherings of fellow actors and Jewish intellectuals we could hear through the summer windows. Since Myron’s death there has been no activity in the house except for Paulette, the caretaker who comes daily.
This week I was in my driveway sitting on a stool scraping the window frame for painting, and I could hear Myrna all afternoon calling out intermittently “Hello?” as if someone were at the door. I felt a pang of guilt for making my basement window more important than Myrna’s eternal life, so yesterday I made up my mind to go over there with a jar of homemade butternut squash soup.
I told her how neither of us has much time, and talked about Yeshua again, the Jewish Messiah who came to take away our sins. She wasn’t interested, and I marveled to myself that someone so close to the ledge could still reject an offer that there was no downside to receiving.
We make ten thousand little choices in our lives, to hear God’s Word or spurn it. When a person will not hear after many appeals, we should not be shocked that she renders herself incapable of hearing.