The Best Kind of Love
By Annette Paxman Bowen
I have a friend who is falling in love. She honestly
claims the sky is bluer. Mozart moves her to tears. She has
lost 15 pounds and looks like a cover girl.
“I’m young again!” she shouts exuberantly.
As my friend raves on about her new love, I’ve taken a good
look at my old one. My husband of almost 20 years, Scott, has
gained 15 pounds. Once a marathon runner, he now runs only down
hospital halls. His hairline is receding and his body shows the
signs of long working hours and too many candy bars. Yet he can
still give me a certain look across a restaurant table and
I want to ask for the check and head home.
When my friend asked me “What will make this love last?” I ran
through all the obvious reasons: commitment, shared interests,
unselfishness, physical attraction, communication. Yet there’s
more. We still have fun. Spontaneous good times. Yesterday, after
slipping the rubber band off the rolled up newspaper, Scott flipped
it playfully at me: this led to an all-out war. Last Saturday at
the grocery, we split the list and raced each other to see who
could make it to the checkout first. Even washing dishes can
be a blast. We enjoy simply being together.
And there are surprises. One time I came home to find a note on the
front door that led me to another note, then another, until I reached
the walk-in closet. I opened the door to find Scott holding a “pot of gold”
(my cooking kettle) and the “treasure” of a gift package. Sometimes I leave
him notes on the mirror and little presents under his pillow.
There is understanding. I understand why he must play basketball
with the guys. And he understands why, once a year, I must get
away from the house, the kids - and even him - to meet my sisters
for a few days of nonstop talking and laughing.
There is sharing. Not only do we share household worries and
parental burdens - we also share ideas. Scott came home from
a convention last month and presented me with a thick historical
novel. Though he prefers thrillers and science fiction, he had
read the novel on the plane. He touched my heart when he
explained it was because he wanted to be able to exchange
ideas about the book after I’d read it.
There is forgiveness. When I’m embarrassingly loud and crazy
at parties, Scott forgives me. When he confessed losing some
of our savings in the stock market, I gave him a hug and said,
“It’s okay. It’s only money.”
There is sensitivity. Last week he walked through the door with
that look that tells me it’s been a tough day. After he spent some
time with the kids, I asked him what happened. He told me about a
60-year-old woman who’d had a stroke. He wept as he recalled the
woman’s husband standing beside her bed, caressing her hand. How was
he going to tell this husband of 40 years that his wife would
probably never recover? I shed a few tears myself. Because of the
medical crisis. Because there were still people who have been married
40 years. Because my husband is still moved and concerned after
years of hospital rooms and dying patients.
There is faith. Last Tuesday a friend came over and confessed her fear
that her husband is losing his courageous battle with cancer. On Wednesday
I went to lunch with a friend who is struggling to reshape her life after
divorce. On Thursday a neighbor called to talk about the frightening
effects of Alzheimer’s disease on her father-in-law’s personality. On Friday
a childhood friend called long-distance to tell me her father had died.
I hung up the phone and thought, This is too much heartache for one week.
Through my tears, as I went out to run some errands, I noticed the boisterous
orange blossoms of the gladiolus outside my window. I heard the delighted
laughter of my son and his friend as they played. I caught sight of a wedding
party emerging from a neighbor’s house. The bride, dressed in satin and lace,
tossed her bouquet to her cheering friends. That night, I told my husband
about these events. We helped each other acknowledge the cycles of life and
that the joys counter the sorrows. It was enough to keep us going.
Finally, there is knowing. I know Scott will throw his laundry
just shy of the hamper every night; he’ll be late to most
appointments and eat the last chocolate in the box. He knows
that I sleep with a pillow over my head. I’ll lock us out of the
house at a regular basis, and I will also eat the last chocolate.
I guess our love lasts because it is comfortable. No, the sky
is not bluer: it’s just a familiar hue. We don’t feel particularly
young: we’ve experienced too much that has contributed to our growth
and wisdom, taking its toll on our bodies, and created our memories.
I hope we’ve got what it takes to make our love last. As a bride,
I had Scott’s wedding band engraved with Robert Browning’s line
“Grow old along with me!” We’re following those instructions.
“If anything is real, the heart will make it plain.”