Your daughters and your son, they bring me flowers every day in the spring. Whatever weeds are blooming in the ditches, they find their way into the vases on the counter. They always ask me the name of the flower, and I always ask them to ask grandma. She knows. I don't.
I've never been much of a labeler of delights. Their simple existence in the same space as me has been enough for most of my life. Flowers without names, loves without reasons, smiles without an explanation. I've known all along you're more structured, but the similar chaos of our apartments before the wedding convinced me that we'd fit together anyway. That you couldn't disappoint me, and I wouldn't you.
Some days our house is full of light and laughter, and we laugh together over the children's antics, and the afternoon sun bounces off the clean wood of the front room floor while I make dinner. As much as I have tried to believe that being a writer, a scholar, a breadwinner will bring me joy, it is in the organic delight of an afternoon housewifing that I come alive, and you breath. It seems impossible to me that I am writing those words. Admitting to the world a sacred but jagged edged truth about what makes men and women - or at least you and I - tick. As if the way to a man's heart is still really through his stomach.
Other days are dark and different. My heart quits ticking right, or post-cancer rises up to swallow me whole in a night full of sweats and night terrors, and I am nailed to the bed by exhaustion. You come home and sigh, get to work on the dishes, and make us dinner. You say you aren't disappointed in me, but regardless my fear swallows joy faster than the world spins, and I shrink away from you because I know, deeper than deep, in that moment I am not worthy.
But real love that stands the tests of time isn't about who is worthy. It's rooted in that holy love of Christ, the love that keeps pouring out into our broken and empty places. You've loved me through darker trials than we imagined, even with our jaded eyes that had seen babies shrivel and die. The sorrow that emptied me of hope was bigger even than cancer. You've held my hand when I didn't care to hold yours. You've held my body as it's shifted and changed from bearing babies and weathering cancer's storms. You kissed my gray hairs as if they are a crown to be treasured, my bald head bruised and bleeding, as if you really wanted to. You've loved me as our house descended into a mess beyond messy, when the bitter taste of tears was all I could offer in return.
I know things have to change. I know the house needs to be cleaned. I know I have to find strength to be a better wife and a better mother. Words like "remission" and "graduation" give me hope. That I won't be stretched this thin forever. That you won't have to fill in as a cook and a housekeeper for much longer. That I'll be a better lover again like I have been in the past.
But life could throw us another curveball. It isn't the hope of an easier tomorrow that makes me smile even as I write about all this pain, the pain the world doesn't see every day. You see it: you see the ugliness and the failure and the work we have to do, and you love me in spite of, no matter what, when the landscape shifts out of focus. Together, however broken, we've found our true north. You are mine, and I am yours, the best gift we've ever gotten. A gift to each other from the generations of family that built us, that loved and lost and struggled and broke. A gift from the only One who can give the things that really matter. And I cradle it like a precious and fragile jewel in the palms of my hands: this love for you that grows without sunshine or rain, that grows in the night and grows when it's ugly and grows when my heart is breaking. You are the most precious thing. My most precious thing. Years from now, when the children are grown, and the house is clean all the time, you'll still be my most precious thing. I can't name this love. It defies logic. It floats when we're sinking. It shines in the dark. Lit with the everburning candle of Christ's love.
I love you. Today. Yesterday. Forever. In spite of. I am blessed beyond words to live in the same space and time as you. Even when you are broken, angry, frustrated. With the grace of God, this one thing will never change.
|A great idea of Amber and Seth Haines. Shared with Joy and Scott Bennett.|
Forgive me - I had something specific on my mind this week - so I wrote before the prompt.