“There are three kinds of love,” she said as she was holding court at our supper table.
Marty was listening and eating a little at a time; I was watching and listening to Renea, the caregiver who was holding court. I was listening, mostly, partly I was listening for my opportunity to weigh in on the discussion; trying to think of what you are going to say really limits understanding, but not in this case.
“There are three kinds of love. The I’m in love with you “if” kind, where someone loves you if you do something, there’s the I’m in love with you “because” love, “because” you do something for me, and there’s the I love you “ in spite of” what you do kind of love.”
I stopped, started and stopped again and reserved comment while I played her words in my brain. In a very simple, somewhat skeptical take on love she had described the romantic feeling, probably too simply, but fairly accurately.
Part of what I heard her say reflected the cynicism of someone who has been loved poorly, part of what I heard her say reflected reality, part of what I heard her say were my own words coming back to me, a recognition that the people we love, the good people we love will invariably fail us from time to time. Expecting the people I love to fail is my own brand of cynicism.
I know it’s too simple but it applies, it applies to my own life. I didn’t fall in love with Marty as part of a bargain, an “if” kind of love. Yes, there was a “because” factor, not “because” she did things for me or to me or because she had things. I loved her “because” she was smart, funny, attractive and bold. I have stayed in love with Marty “in spite of” a whole lot. I suspect she can rightfully say the very same thing.
We succeeded in our marriage “in spite of” what we said and did to each other. I love Marty “in spite of” the strokes. I love Marty “in spite of” all of the things we have gone through, all of the years of growing up, all of the years of maturing, all of the lunacy of a long relationship.
Bear with me because it will all make sense.
Yesterday I barked, I barked for good reason, I barked out of emotional fatigue and frustration, a very reasonable reaction. The constancy of care giving, of worrying, of just doing everything gets to me some times and I just wear out emotionally. Unfortunately the result is jerkishness on my part and guess who bears the brunt of that jerkishness? Marty Jean, she’s the closest and safest target.
This time Marty barked back, bless her soul. As she lay on her back in her bed she explained in very precise words that her end of this whole stroke deal pretty well sucked too and that maybe she got the worst end of the deal.
I was a little taken aback by the flash of the old Marty and I took a breath and started to rationalize my behavior and explain to her I wasn’t just mad at her and I wasn’t trying to take out my anger out on her; all of the words vaguely familiar from years of previous arguments.
I put my left arm under her shoulders and my right arm under her knees and I lifted and twisted her to a sitting position on the side of her bed. As I put my arms under hers to help her stand she looked at me and said, “Well we need to hire someone to take this shit.”
“What shit?” I asked.
“Your frustration, hire someone for you to be mad at, I don’t need this shit.”
“We can’t hire someone for me to get mad at, no one would do that.”
She paused as I pulled her up from the bed to standing and as I was lifting her left leg and pivoting her on her right to sit in her wheel chair she said, “Sure we can, there are a lot of people who are at home putting up with the same thing for free, someone will do it for a buck.”
I guess Marty loves me too and maybe, just maybe, Marty has to love me in “spite of” the shit I dish out from time to time not “because” I help take care of her.
By the way, if you are interested in the position of shit taker just let me know, there are no real benefits and it doesn’t pay very well but you do get to hang with Marty and that’s sort of fun.