Everyone has a story, and it’s this fascination with people’s stories that’s been such a big part of my life as both a therapist and a writer. In my story, it’s dark out, 4:30 AM, and I’ve already been awake for an hour or two.
My husband’s in the hospital on day three of recovery from an emergency operation, and infection and pneumonia still lurk, twin predators prowling the shiny halls of that hospital. I said to myself when I started this blog, that it was never going to be self-indulgent navel gazing—it was going to be about living a creative life in Hawaii, and I would touch on universal human themes and keep it light and entertaining.
But my guess is, these are universal human themes—and in my own story I have been powerfully loved by a complex man. He’s a big man, both in presence and physicality, and as he’s aged the loss of the physicality part has hit him hard, and we’ve both been going through that for awhile (see “Midlife: She is a Cruel Mistress) but this latest thing has actually had me wondering if he’s going to make it.
So many kinds of love, so many shades and depths. Parental love, sister love (I never got to know brotherly love, though in this crisis I told three of my brothers-in-law I loved them, and felt their love too) love of a child. Love for my clients. Love of humanity (in a global-peace kinda way, with assistance of champagne while toasting) and love of grandparents, aunts, uncles, colleagues and dear friends.
This is about Eros, romantic love, the kind of love that propels people across the length of California to spend just an evening together, as we did in the early days of our courtship. Love hit me like a freight train, painfully devastating in its way, a life-changing vortex of turbulent highs and lows. I just had to have a strong and difficult man, and in the story of life I was constructing, I starred as the virgin in the woods who tamed a unicorn to lay his head in my lap.
(Course, once I had him I then had to live with him, and that hasn’t always been easy . Some have even proposed I’m not the easiest person either, that the two of us are more like twin stars with equal gravitational pull trying for dominance.)
Still, we’ve done some crazy wonderful things in 25 years (we’re a month shy of our anniversary) and underneath it all is a certainty that from a young age, I’ve been loved. Well and truly loved, and given it back in equal share. That has given me a strength to do and achieve things I wonder at in hindsight, and know at least in part, the combustion of that love provided fuel that’s carried me through half my life.
Love changes. This is something you read about but never really believe, just like the part that old age is going to happen to you. It waxes and wanes. The early passion when it was perfectly normal to have sex twice a day certainly changes. Throw on stress of work and careers, raising a family, mortgages, finances, different goals, personalities, old childhood wounds, and health issues—and it’s amazing anyone stays married anymore.
And it seems to be more and more ok that people don’t.
I don’t want that to be my story though. I started with a fairy tale (at least in my own silly mind) and that’s the kind of story I still want, the story I’m fighting for when I sent us both on yet another round of marriage counseling, the story I’m fighting for when I called not one, but two churches to send their prayer teams to come visit us in hospital. (A stream of kindly strangers appear at the door, nervously clutching Bibles, to pray over my husband. I can’t seem to, and so it’s so great to just let someone else fumble for the words as I sit sniffling and wiping mascara on the sheets)
“It doesn’t come off,” he said, when they tried to get his wedding band off for the surgery. His wedding ring is a plain gold band, and over the years has become embedded in his powerful, long-fingered hand. They ended up covering it with surgical tape.
It’s that hand, so graceful, strong and artistic, that shows my husband’s character. His hand has carved sculptures, built homes, carried babies, taken amazing photographs, fixed meals, and touched me everywhere a woman can be touched. That hand with the ring embedded in it has become a symbol to me of everything love can be. Not easy. Not always pretty. There are scars on that hand, arthritis in the knuckles, and scratches on the gold.
It doesn’t matter a bit, because that ring doesn’t come off.
I’m crying as I write this. I’ve never been much of a stoic and frankly, I don’t believe in it. Tears carry off cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Sometimes I actually feel how toxic they are, burning my cheeks like acid, and if I cry now, I won’t need to cry later.
Also, Psa. 58:6 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” I like the image of a bottle of my tears, of God keeping track of them. It must be a fr*cking gallon jug by now, and I hope God uses them for something useful.
I’m sure my husband will be up and around soon, grumpy at being ill, eager to upload the pictures of the sunrise he’s taken through his hospital window and embarrassed that I wrote about him on the blog, something he made me promise not to do.
But some promises are made to be broken, just like others are meant to be kept.