Love That Lasts

Love That Lasts

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Love That Lasts

To get to a woman’s heart, a man must first use his own.

Mike Dobbertin, age thirteen

I have a friend who is falling in love. She honestly claims that the sky is bluer; she’s noticed the delicate fragrance of the lilacs beside her garage, though she previously walked past them without stopping; and Mozart moves her to tears. In short, life has never been so exciting.

“I’m young again!” she shouts exuberantly. I have to admit, the guy must be better than Weight Watchers. She has lost fifteen pounds and looks like a cover girl. She’s taken a new interest in the shape of her thighs.

As my friend raves on about her new love, I’ve taken a good look at my old one. My hubby, Scott, hasn’t yet had his mid-life crisis, but he’s entitled to one. His hairline is receding. He’s gained fifteen pounds. Once a marathon runner, all muscles and sinew, he now only runs down hospital halls. His body shows the signs of long work 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 immediately and head for home.

My natural glow has dimmed a bit after twenty-five years. I can look pretty good when I have to, but I don’t think twice about hanging around the house in my baggy sweat pants, old softball jersey and my husband’s gray wool socks.

My friend asked me, “What will make this love last?” I told her the truth: “I don’t know.” Then she asked, “Why does your love last?” I told her I’d think about it.

I’ve run through all the obvious reasons: commitment, shared interests, unselfishness, physical attraction, the ability to communicate. Yet, there’s more.

We still have fun. Spontaneous good times. Yesterday, after slipping the rubber band off the rolled-up newspaper, he flipped it playfully at me: this led to all-out war. Last Saturday, while at the grocery store, we split the list and then raced each other to see who could gather the required items and make it to the check-out stand first. We’ve made an art form out of our prepared gourmet dinners. Even washing dishes together can be a blast. We enjoy simply being together.

And there are surprises: surprises in daily living. One time I came home from work to find a note on the front door. This note led me to another note, then to another, until—many notes later—I was directed to 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. He had been jumping back in the closet for an hour, every time he heard footsteps on the stairs. Ever since then, I often leave him notes on the mirror or slip little presents under his pillow.

There is understanding. I understand why he must play basketball with the guys regularly. And he understands why, about once a year, I must get away from the house, the phone, the kids—and even him—to meet my sisters somewhere for a few days of nonstop talking and laughing.

There is a lot of sharing. Not only do we share the bills, the household worries, the parental burdens and the cooking, we also share ideas. Scott came home from a medical convention last month and presented me with a copy of a thick historical novel. Then he touched my heart by telling me he had read the book on the plane. This confession comes from a man who loves science fiction and Tom Clancy thrillers. He read it because he wanted to be able to share ideas about the book after I’d read it.

There is comfort. It’s the comfort in knowing that I can tell the waitress waiting for our dessert order, “Just bring me a fork. I’ll have a bit of his.” I know that one bit is allowed. If Scott really wants every single bit of his dessert to himself, I know he will say, “Sorry, order your own!” And if he’s not up to sharing, I’m not offended.

There is blessed forgiveness. When I’m too loud and crazy at parties and have embarrassed us both by not knowing when to shut up, Scott forgives me. He knows I can’t resist a good one-liner. I forgave him when he came home and confessed he’d lost some of our investment savings in the stock market. I gave him a hug and bravely said, “It’s okay. It’s only money.”

There is “synergism.” That is, we can produce something that is greater than the two of us. (Take, for instance, our kids.) When we put our heads together to identify a problem and all the possible solutions, sometimes we’re absolutely, as a team, nothing short of brilliant.

There is sensitivity. I know not to jump all over him for being late when he comes home from the hospital with a certain look in his eyes; I can see that it’s been a tough day. Last week, he walked through the door with that look. After he’d spent some time with the kids and had eaten his warmed-up dinner, I asked, “What happened?”He told me about a sixty-year-old woman who had a stroke.

He’d worked with her for hours, but she was still in a coma. When he’d returned to her hospital room to check on her, he had been moved to tears by the sight of the woman’s husband standing beside her bed, stroking her hand. Scott wept again as he told me he didn’t think the woman would survive. And how was he going to tell this husband of forty years that his wife would probably never recover?

I shed a few tears myself. Because of the medical crisis. Because there are still people who have been married for forty years. Because my husband is still moved and concerned, even after twenty-five years of hospital rooms and dying patients.

There is faith. We both know that God loves us; and that, though life is difficult, He will strengthen and help us. Last week, Scott was on call and already overloaded by the necessary extra hours he spent at the hospital. On Tuesday night, a good friend from church came over and tearfully confessed her fears that her husband, who has cancer, is losing his courageous battle. We did our best to comfort and advise her.

On Wednesday, I went to lunch with a friend who is struggling to reshape her life after her husband left her. Together, we talked, laughed, got angry and figured out the blessings she could still count. On Thursday, a neighbor called who needed to talk about the frightening effects of Alzheimer’s disease, because it was changing her father-in-law’s personality.

On Friday, my dearest childhood friend called long-distance to break the sad news that her father had died. After a minute, I hung up the phone and thought, “This is too much pain and heartache for one week.” After saying a prayer, I descended the stairs to run some necessary errands. Through my tears, 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 created Lego spaceships in our basement.

After backing my van out of my driveway, I caught sight of three brilliantly colored hot air balloons floating in the distant turquoise sky. Moments later, I looked left just in time to see a wedding party emerge from a neighbor’s house. The bride, dressed in satin and lace, tossed her bouquet to her cheering friends.

That night, as I told my husband about these events, we acknowledged the cycles of life and the joys that counter the sorrows. We also recognized the satisfaction we felt when we assisted people with the weight of their burdens. 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 perennially late to most appointments; he’ll leave the newspaper scattered across the floor three out of five times; and he’ll eat the last chocolate in the box. He knows I sleep with a pillow over my head; I’ll lock us out of the house or the car on a regular basis; I’ll have a pre-trip fit before we leave on vacation; and I will also eat the last chocolate in the box.

I guess our love lasts because it’s comfortable. No, the sky is not bluer—it’s just a familiar hue. We’re not noticing many new things about life nor each other, but we like what we’ve noticed and benefit from relearning. Music is still meaningful because we know the harmonies. We don’t feel particularly young. We’ve experienced too much that’s contributed to growth and wisdom, taken its toll on our bodies, and created our mixed bag of treasured memories.

I hope we’ve got what it takes to make our love last. As a naive bride, I had Scott’s wedding band engraved with this Robert Browning line: “Grow old along with me!” We’re following those instructions.

Annette Paxman Bowen
Submitted by Sandra Dow Mapula

©Reprinted with permission of Joe Kohl.

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