I like my husband. I like his generous heart, his humility, and his penchant for Tommy Bahama shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops. Sure, I love him. Yet our love has changed throughout our 23-year marriage. We have traded passion for patience and lust for loyalty. While each exists, they are no longer that which drives us.
His presence has been my greatest blessing. There are moments neither of us feels that way, but moments are transient. People are not. His choice to witness my life is not one I take for granted. MS is a daily reminder that nothing is guaranteed. People change, and so does their health.
Mine did. So did his.
It was early March when he spoke of symptoms. That afternoon I called his doctor. One day later we sat in the waiting room. He did not want to talk. I watched as he fiddled with the hem of his shorts. I was struck by his vulnerability. This man who so confidently guided me was lost. The fragility of life struck like a gong. I reached and placed my hand over his. At that moment, I vowed to do whatever it took to bring him back.
The stress from his experience ignited an MS exacerbation. I was leveled but so was he. I was in need of both care and a caretaker. He resented needing care. I resented myself for having difficulty providing it. We resented each other. That was enough to pull the pin from the grenade. And our marriage took a direct hit. The hurt was visceral. The fallout left us wounded. We craved the affection we purposely withheld.
It took years to truly own that neither of us was to blame. Logic does not always prevail when emotions are raw. I have always likened MS to a third person in our marriage. That which I would use to nurture my spouse is siphoned elsewhere. This can starve a marriage. A relationship cannot survive on leftovers. We had to learn how to nourish both ourselves and one another.
Six years later and he is well. His physical condition is chronic but manageable. In kind, we are learning to manage our marriage with our respective conditions. We are also learning to manage ourselves. At a time when much is lost, it is crucial to focus on that which remains. I can take it a step further and say that which is gained. I am incapable of sweating the small stuff. So much just does not matter. I gave up trying to make meaning of these trials. I am doing my best to adapt to whatever may come. MS was a dress rehearsal for seeing him through this. What I lack in physical ability I make up for in heart.
He wants to ride to the beach with the top down. My perennial beach boy. I watch him as he drives. I ask God to keep him well. And as I do, I reach out and place my hand over his.
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