Thursday, February 19, 2009

In sickness and in health

Steve is about the same this morning as he was last night. A coughing fit woke him at 2 a.m., and he was up with a breathing treatment and the jittery aftereffects until 4:30 a.m.

I spoke with Dr. M's nurse, to update her on symptoms. I'll do the same this afternoon. They want to be sure there are no new symptoms and no deterioration.


I want to share what I wrote for my twice-weekly Briefing column today. The link is here.

In sickness and in health? These vows have meaning

Last week Katie proposed to Steve.

This wasn't the first time our 3-year-old has expressed an interest in marrying her father. We always tell her that family members can't get married and that Daddy is already married and that when she's old enough to get married, she'll probably want to marry someone else.

Right now her top non-Daddy choice is Conor.

Last week, when asked why Conor would make a good husband, she said, "He'll put his dirty dishes in the sink, and he won't eat like a bear."

After considering her answer for a few days, she edited her response: "He won't eat like a wolverine."

Katie clearly has a low opinion of wolverines.

She has a high opinion of marriage, though, especially ours.

She dictated the message on our handmade Valentine's Day card, created at preschool. When her teacher asked Katie what she loved about her parents, she said:

"They are very sweet. Mom and Dad love each other. They think they are nice and beautiful. I love you!"

Steve and I are touched that she notices how much we love each other. We hope that we're modeling the kind of relationships that she and her future husband – and Cooper and his future wife – will have one day.

We certainly aren't perfect. We do try our best to support each other, resolve conflict and honor our vows.

For better or for worse? The better far outweighs the worse. I could write books about the better, with titles such as The Great Adventures of Steve and Tyra and Dancing in the Kitchen and Grocery Store Aisles. But there's been plenty of worse.

Miscommunication, broken major appliances, workplace stress that comes home too often.

For richer, for poorer? We've never gone hungry. We've always had more than adequate shelter. We have plenty of extras. Still, we marvel how we survived our first couple of married years, when we both earned very little money and still carried some wedding debt.

In sickness and in health? For most of our time together, we've enjoyed good health. The past year feels like 15 years of sickness all crammed into one, though. Steve has been battling brain cancer.

Just when I thought I knew everything about our relationship and how much I loved Steve, the "sickness" part changed everything.

Until now, I never knew how much the suffering and struggling of another person could cause such pain for another. I'm no stranger to empathy, but I've never experienced such heartache.

When I watch Steve struggle to walk from the sofa to the kitchen or listen to his strained voice while he reads bedtime stories to our children, I hurt for him. When he is in pain, I feel like it's hitting me, too. (If only I could steal his pain altogether.)

A friend e-mailed this week to check on Steve and me. When I shared with her how difficult it is watch such suffering without being able to help, she responded, "You are one unit. It's the definition of love."

When we exchanged vows in July 1994, I never really considered the definition of love. I just knew, without a doubt, that Steve and I were truly meant for each other. That our love would propel us through whatever challenges were ahead. That our love would continue to create joy.

As we held hands at the altar, we never imagined that we'd face a brutal cancer diagnosis.

There's no way that I could have anticipated how our shared fight against a brain tumor would deepen our love and strengthen our relationship.

There's no way I would change a single moment.

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