© Bruce Allen October 10, 2018
Relationships, over time, seem to become burnished, the colors changed and smoothed off around the edges. It is the evolving nature of the marriage relationship itself over time which produces this new appearance, this patina of age. It is accompanied at times by some sense of loss, but, in the best cases, maintains acceptance, understanding, kindness and friendship. It is what happens over 40 or 50 years, as lust grows into love which grows into commitment which grows into devotion. It is, in fact, something of a best-case solution to this whole marriage thing; it is rare—perhaps 3-4% of marriages get to the devotion stage—and therefore I consider it valuable. As is the sacrament that produced it and the foundational love that lives on.
A husband like me, whose go-to behavior (according to Strength Finders) is intellection, must try every day not to allow devotion to slip into The Unthinkable. My wife’s illness is with her every day; she’s with me virtually every day. As long as we Are Here Now things are good. Given her remarkable chemo results, it has gotten easier for me not to wander down the rabbit hole. This is clearly not the case for the majority of people with this disease or their caregivers.
When she first received the diagnosis, my wife and our oldest daughter sat down to build a CaringBridge site, which needed a title, which begat the wrist bands from Emily Taylor. My wife simply said it. “Healing, Hope & Courage.” It is, for the bulk of cancer patients, the chronology of one’s mentality, in three distinct phases, each jarringly giving way to the other over a painfully short period of time. The first two are accompanied by a rugged regimen of chemotherapy and its attendant side effects for six to 12 months. No one daring to connect the dots out loud. My wife determined to leave it in God’s hands.
Due, in my opinion, to the combined effects of chemotherapy, prayer, Losartan and quinine, my wife maintains the upper hand in her counter-attack against cancer. Winter will be hard on her, due to her neuropathy and sensitivity to sub-freezing temperatures. But we expect to get through it with relative ease. When the days are short and Christmas is a recent memory we can look forward to lighting the fire and being grateful for having survived another holiday season, both literally and figuratively, in the proverbial bosom of our family.
It is important for patients to have stuff to look forward to, things to keep on the calendar, things to keep them engaged and relevant. For us, it is a trip to Chicago, another to Seattle, before the mayhem of Thanksgiving and Christmas consumes us and all those around us for two months. My wife likes the bedlam caused by a bunch of grandcousins racing through the house more than I do, but it is great to have them all here. Our daughters, as expected, continue completely supportive of my wife, consistently committed. There are now six grandchildren who love themselves some Nanny and enjoy her company immensely. Even the older ones, whom one would expect to start becoming jaded. Remarkable testament to the modeling of good behaviors by their moms and dads.
We recently celebrated our 43rd anniversary on a short trip to New England. The weather wasn’t entirely cooperative and one of the primary destinations was kind of disappointing. I was a little put out, but Nancy found it easy to enjoy pretty much everything. Our 44th won’t be spent in Maine, but we look forward to spending it somewhere. It is only fitting that the photos from the schooner, in which memories of 2018 reside, be burnished, too.