I see her watching me as I decide on gifts and sort them and package them for Christmas. I see her brain haltingly process what she sees, I see in her someone who wants to break out and tell me I’m doing it all wrong and to just step back as she fixes the mess I’m making.
I asked her what she was thinking and she said, “I feel bad because I used to do that and now I can’t.
There are too many things gone. The stuff she can’t do matters to Marty, it makes a difference to her. And, yes, what she can’t do matters to me, what has been lost matters to our children and family.
We love other people. We can’ help it. I think it’s the natural human condition. Most of the time loving someone is really excellent; sometimes it gets really hard, some people do things that make it really hard to love.
I’m not particularly comfortable or good at being cynical (I’m a lousy poker player) and I’m not even sure it is necessarily a cynical thought, but I think most of the time we love people not because of what they do but in spite of the things that they do.
It’s been my mantra for years. When I managed call centers it was my daily prayer because there were some people who were really hard to love….I don’t need to name names, you know who you are.
The fact that Marty married and loved me and stayed with me for over 35 years proves my theory. Marty loved me, even though she sometimes didn’t like me. She loved me in spite of my lack of self awareness or understanding. She loved me in spite of my obsessive approach to my career and how too often the job took precedence over more important things. She continued to love me as we moved from one town to the next when she never wanted to leave where we were.
Our children she loved (loves) unconditionally, in spite of their moody, lazy, self-absorbed adolescence. She once told me that adolescence was God’s way of preparing us for our children’s pending independence. She said by the time we got through the teen age years we really wanted them out of the house.
In spite of our spawn’s perfect upbringing our children did not always behave perfectly and at times got on their mother’s last nerve. I know because she told me, a lot. She loved them anyway and was always their fiercest defender, even when she was angry at their behavior. She loved them in spite of the behavior.
Marty loved her children and me with a passion; she didn’t know any other way to love. She took the kids to the doctor and dentist and orthodontist. She helped with the school projects; she was their educational advocate and biggest cheerleader. She didn’t do any of that to earn their love or respect.
Her love was never predicated on it being returned, it just was because they forever belonged to her.
Fast forward to today, Marty the mother, Marty the wife is different. She can no longer be the advocate or the defender or the counselor or the adviser or the problem solver. As I lost part of my partner our children lost that part of their mother.
What did not go away was their love for their mother, they love her in spite of the strokes, they love her in spite of the losses. We all love her more dearly in spite of it all. It matters to her that I’m standing there wrapping and bagging Christmas gifts and frankly I would like to have her doing it.
I never loved her because she did that stuff, I still love her in spite of the fact she can’t do it anymore. That doesn’t make me or our kids heroes, it makes us human.
Our lives have been a constant sea of role changes over the past years. Disability alters so many things. I think Marty, at times, feels “less than” because of her brokenness, I think, at times, Marty doesn’t feel like she can fulfill her role as wife and mother.
Love is not predicated on what one does for another. Love is about accepting the sins with the sinner and loving past the sins, loving past the brokenness, loving in spite of what we do or don’t do.
I hope it’s the human condition.