My Little Dear: A Feature Story

Description: A feature story I wrote for my very first communications class. I worked on this paper for an entire semester!

Finally, I took it to my professor a day before it was due to get final feedback. She regretingly told me it was 80% narrative and 20% research. She needed 20% narrative and 80% research.

I panicked and put it out of my mind until three hours before it was due. Then I sat down with a mug-ful of cereal and rewrote the entire thing. I read my rapid work and figured it was the worst thing I had ever written and I was doomed to fail the class.

A week later my professor messaged me on Facebook. I had received a 99%. It was exactly what she wanted.

I decided in that moment to follow the communications path instead of the English one I previously intended to follow. This paper changed my life.

Date: Fall 2015

My Little Dear

Cathy Brown was following her heart 4,821 miles from her home in Farmington, Utah to Poole, England  for love. At least a hope of love. 

Steve McGill knew the moment he saw Cathy at the Heathrow airport in London she was the woman for him. He had known it for months through letters, tapes, pictures, and phone calls. He asked her to come stay with him for one week all for love. At least a hope of love. 

That love would go undeveloped if Cathy and Steve had not decided to go the extra thousand miles and make an effort to find their special someone. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 50.2 percent of Americans were single in 2014 and only 30 percent of Millennials find marriage to be “one of the most important things in life.” 

The single life and the “selfie” is quickly becoming the norm. According to the U.S Census the total number of marriages fell from 2.45 million in 1990 to 2.11 million in 2010. Marriage is now overshadowed by fear, selfishness, and lack of commitment. Although a single future seems to be the fate of the rising generation, it doesn’t need to be. 

Cole Ratcliffe, a marriage and family counselor at BYU-Idaho, said, “You have to put yourself into the right opportunities to meet people.” He said relationships required effort and constant choices by both parties to leave their comfort zone. Cathy and Steve exemplify going the extra thousand miles to put themselves in the right opportunities. 

The first night of Cathy’s stay she lay awake listening to Steve snore in the living room on the couch. She thought, “What in the Hell are you doing halfway around the world in some strange man’s bed.” 

She had one week to decide if this man was worth her heart and her time. On the third day of her stay in England Steve took her sightseeing to an old castle. Cathy wanted to go inside and look around, but the castle was atop a large hill with a cobblestone pathway all the way up and she was in a wheelchair after breaking her leg two weeks previous. 

Steve, at forty years old, was still strong and pushed her the entire way so she could see something he wanted her to see. It was then Cathy thought, “If you let this man go, you’re crazy.” 

At the end of the week when it was time for Cathy to go home, Steve got his affairs in order, bought a plane ticket, and went with her. Author Margie Warrell writes about being brave, trusting your heart, and being less cautious in the chances you take. A certain degree of irrationality is required when it comes to love and relationships. 

One reason single Americans aren’t marrying is fear. Warrell said, “We are afraid of putting our vulnerability on the line.” Advanced brain imaging technology shows humans are afraid to take risks. Too much is in store with education, careers, homes, lifestyles, and money. 

 Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, says when people are considering a decision they tend to put more value on the potential losses than the potential gains. Most Americans play their lives safe and with between 40-50% of marriages resulting in divorce, marriage does not seem safe, nor is it. 

Before he met Cathy, Steve drank, smoked, was married, and had a son. Cathy wondered about his previous marriage and family, but chose to hold her tongue. One day she asked Steve what his son was like, not knowing the story that would follow.

He told her his son was built big and broad, a body he would recognize anywhere.  He told her he had gotten a call from Germany a few years before they met. They told him his son had died in a car wreck and they needed Steve to identify the body.

He told her, with tears on his cheeks, he didn’t even need to lift the sheet to know it was his son lying on the table in front of him. Cathy told herself his past life was never worth mentioning again. She said it wasn’t worth it to make him upset like he had been. 

All people come with secrets and hidden parts of their lives. According to Utah State University the top reasons for divorce are “too much arguing, infidelity, unrealistic expectations, and abuse.” All of which derives from selfishness and secrets. America has been consistently known as the selfish and greedy people in the world, people who put their own needs above others. 

Those who cannot release their selfishness will struggle to get and stay married. Ann Landers said, “There are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” Many people struggle with their spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or partner and their past life. Selfishness is mistaken for courage and a chasm of doubt, selfishness, and secrets develop between the couple.

Cole Ratcliffe said, “A marriage requires you to decide to do things everyday that perhaps you don’t want to do. You have to act lovingly, choose to be kind and you have to choose to love them.” Choosing to release doubt, selfishness, and secrets leads to trust and happy relationships. 

On December 28, 1992 Steve and Cathy chose to trust and love each other for time and all eternity, committing to a long lasting and potentially difficult marriage. But the couple couldn’t have been happier. Even when their wedding pictures were disrupted by weather, Cathy donned Steve’s coat and the newlyweds shined with happiness.

According to The National Marriage Project one of the great sources of happiness to married couples is commitment. They dedicate themselves towards to watching out for the spouse’s happiness rather than their own. 

The level of commitment married couples can attain derives from long, legally binding relationships. UCLA psychologists predict that a deeper level of commitment between couples is an effective predictor of lower divorce rates and fewer problems in marriage.  Putting in the work and effort to love each other and stay married is different than being in love. It causes tighter bonds, stronger connections, and long lasting relationships. 

Perhaps the reason divorce rates are high, marriage rates are low, and depression is rampant is that the number of unmarried couples cohabiting has increased seventeen-fold from 1960 to 2011 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Couples find it easier to live together and be free to leave whenever things stop working out. This sense of freedom, while appealing, is counterproductive. 

Successful businesswoman and CEO Kay Koplovitz says commitment to something you cannot guarantee it is one of the only ways to find success. She said, “You have to be comfortable that you don’t know exactly how you are going to get to the results that you want to see.” 

Commitment to marriage and relationships establishes strong unifying bonds between couples. After nearly 24 years of marriage Steve and Cathy speak of each other with tender voices and words of endearment. When Steve is looking for Cathy he’ll ask his neighbors, “Have you seen my little dear?”

When she speaks of how much she loves him her voice quivers and her eyes get wet. “It’s a good love story,” she says. She loses focus and seems to be replaying every happy moment they have ever experienced in her mind. 

There are many. Each night adds another happy moment when Steve kisses her goodnight and holds her hand while she sleeps.

But underneath his endearing gesture is fear for the safety of his little dear. At age 70 Cathy now requires a continuous positive airway machine to rest. It silences her usual nighttime noises and subdues the tossing and turning Steve has grown accustomed to. 

He pats her still hand regularly while she sleeps and he lays awake. In the mornings he says, “I’m sorry, I just have to make sure you’re warm.”

They tell their children if they get in an accident and both pass on it will be a blessing. Yet each day they are reminded of the fear they conquered, the selflessness they mastered, and the commitment they made to love each other for time and all eternity. 

They are reminded of their own successful marriage. 

They are reminded of the risks they took and the blessings they have received because of those risks. 

They are reminded of their first week together and the moment they each knew-this was the person they wanted to spend forever with. 

They are reminded by a small, discolored, and laminated piece of a letter hanging on their fridge. It reads, “Dear Cathy, please marry me and make me a happy man- Steve, XOXOXO”

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