I have two appointments at different Cleveland Clinic specialists in separate locations next Monday. I didn't have a plan for who would drive me. I made arrangements for the girls after school . . . kind've. I already have a friend who graciously offered to take a day off from her job to take me to Toledo this Friday to give you a break. I have to go back to the doctor early tomorrow morning because I can't quit coughing. I have hematology tomorrow at 1 pm. The appointments next week are for treatment for the searing pain in my abdomen, so bad today I can't get out of bed, and my colon hanging out of my butt. Neither delicate issues are something a husband wants to think about or talk about or hear about, but they are slowly strangling me. You know this.
The thing is I need YOU. For some appointments I need YOU. It may have seemed a simple thing to repeat again to me because you've said it before in these long years of juggling all this. Last night it took my breath away.
"I don't care about my job.
You know what I mean.
Of course I do,
but I promised myself I would always do what you or our family needed first.
If they let me go they let me go.
You come first, Monki."
I was laying here crying. It happens at least once a week. I stop trying to be brave and open the flood gates with you. You let me say the same things over and over. I tell you how much it hurts. I tell you how I can't do this anymore. You listen without saying anything. Then I wipe my tears, blow my nose, and I try to make a plan for the week together with you. I go over the appointments, the money that isn't there, the girls and who will watch them. This is my way of trying to maintain some control in a life that is almost nothing like we thought we wanted it to be.
Somewhere in the midst of our mess, you have this other world to manage too. You have faithfully worked there for five years. You have never once complained about how you are stuck in a job that is way too entry level for you. You never grumble about how you cannot explore other options or even seek promotion there because you have had to take off so much time for Danica and I over the years, often without any notice. They have been so good to work with you. You have always offered to make up your time or work overtime, but it doesn't change the fact your family has had to come first and any personal ambition or desire for success has not been an option for you.
No one here really knows the Dan I first met and fell in love with. The manager. The Inner Circle award winner. Your life with the trips and recognition. The bonuses and stability. The social network. The friends. Golf. Your boat. Your motorcycle. Things that made a life outside of what I was to you. I have seen you sacrifice everything. At first it was so I could go back to my career. I was so selfish. You stepped back so I could succeed. My pride almost ruined our family back then. God's Grace . . . your grace saved us. I have watched you sell everything down to the most humbling day when I gave you my beautiful diamond solitaire in the red and gold box. The stone you studied and chose. The perfect carat with perfect color and clarity you had worked so hard to pay for and gave me on the beach in Kauai. You brought me the setting back empty, and we both cried. Nothing was sacred in our desperate attempt to stay afloat.
I have never seen or heard or read in fairy tale or real life about a man who loves like you do. You are constant service and sacrifice for the girls and I. A woman recently visited me and was comparing her steady husband with you. She said something that shocked me. She said, "Most men would have left women like us." Here's the thing. I have never once felt like you would leave me. Your love is that sure. You are a mirror of God's love. When I can do absolutely nothing to be your help you still cherish me. When the only physical connection we can make is less than a hug because of my pain you sniff my neck deeply and sigh, not out of frustration but as if you are still intoxicated with something only you know resides in this shell. You treat me like a soul. You respect me even though I have betrayed you before. You forgive me over and over again. You are so fierce in your commitment it frightens me, because I still can't believe it's possible.
I want to do something huge for you. I want to give you a break. I want to spend a week with just you and feel even a fraction better than I do now so I can give you all my attention. I want you to know friends again. and have something to say to anyone besides how hard it is all the time over here. I want you to experience recreation or pleasure without a single shadow overhead. I want to sit in the sun with both our faces burning and feel the exact same release at the exact same time and say together, "This is good." I want you to feel the escape you loved about riding your motorcycle alone on a spring day in Maryland down an open road lined with flowering pear trees. I want you to be out on the water and see the Washington Monument in the setting sun and remember what it is like to feel really free. I want to have a meal with you and not think about what it costs or what in it might make me sick or how long we have before I crash. I want to taste every single ingredient and talk about them and sip the notes in our wine like a symphony and tell the truth in the clear way we used to on special nights alone. I want to be healthy for just one more night so I can make love to you the way I used to, when our bodies and spirits were so melded it was as if you were wearing my skin and I was wearing yours. I want to laugh out loud and not have it catch in my throat like a knife. You always make me laugh. I love how you make me laugh.
So much of your love is about Delaney and Danica too. I don't know any other man who works all day and comes home to run such a perfect home. You don't sit down until you have a load of laundry in and the dishwasher emptied and coffee ready for the next morning. You don't let yourself fall asleep until the laundry is out of the dryer and folded. You run the vacuum, make the girls a bedtime snack and ask me what else you could possibly do to make something easier or less painful for me. On nights I know you are starving, you will eat a bowl of cereal without complaining because I just couldn't make dinner and nights I do cook, which you know I love to do, you tell me how much you appreciate it. "Good job, Monki." And in those words you are saying so much more because you know how much it hurt to stand and stir and lift and open and shut to make a simple meal. You step in for birthday parties and shopping and every endless outing moms have to make, because I can't. When I try to go along you have my back and see the look in my face when I'm done. You play Polly Pockets on the floor when your favorite football team is on TV. You do art and homework and ride bikes and tuck kids in when I should be doing all those things. When I want to be doing all those things. You protect me even from our children on my hardest days. This hurts us both, and I don't know any other man who is this brave.
I pray for you. I ask God to give you the strength you need to keep doing this impossible thing you have somehow made possible for us. I beg Him to bring you rest or relief or joy of any kind. I thank Him for you so many times every day and every night it is like I am breathing gratitude for the only earthly thing I know has sustained me during this journey.
I read back over this blog and my journals before that and see the love story He is writing. I know we quit looking for the reasons this happened to us. I know we stopped believing it was punishment for something we did. I know we quit asking almost all the whys and have learned together to take it minute by minute, hour by hour as it comes. I just have to say it over and over. There is no one else who could have stood in the waves this long and not turned and swam to save themselves. You were made for me. You were made to love Danica and Delaney. Every part of your life until our life began made you ready to be the man you are.
The sun in shining in the window in our home in our room, and I thank God for this day, this place, this love. Our Hope remains, Dan. It does. It has to.
Photo by Christina Adam of Grace Designs Photography.