On a recent Sunday we piled in a pew behind a lovely lady I know from the Christian Mothers group at my parish. She was with her husband, with whom she had raised six wonderful children. She fussed over the twins and I asked about her oldest grandchild, a beautiful young lady of sixteen who had been hit by a car last spring. Thank God she is fine and all of the damage done to her leg is healing well. I had noticed in the Christian Mothers newsletter from the past month that there was a request to pray for this woman’s husband. Since he was standing right next to her I did not want to pry and ask her what what wrong. However, it soon became very apparent. She tried to help him take off his coat. He pursed his lips and shook his head no as a child would. She gently asked him to turn around and face front several times before he would comply. Throughout Mass she reminded him of when to stand, kneel and sit and on the return from receiving Holy Eucharist she held his hand and led him, much like I do with the little ones.
It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
She did all of these things with great love. At one point when she reached over to help her husband with his scarf she had such a look of love and tenderness in her eyes I actually became choked up. He had the vague look I get in the grocery store when someone greets me and I’m not sure where I know them from. They have been married nearly fifty years and he barely seemed to know her. It didn’t seem to matter to her.
What a romance! What a great and enduring love story. These devout and loving people are living out the vocation of marriage the way Christ intended us to, not the way Hollywood makes people believe it should be lived. This dear lady is facing some difficult times I am sure. She will be called upon to make decisions and carry out plans that no one wants to deal with. What I saw in her face at Mass assures me that she will shoulder her burdens with great love. Sorrow, probably, but always love.
That is what love is about. It is easy to love in the good times. When there is money and time available. It is easy to do the flower and candy thing and call it love. It is very nice and I don’t want to imply that I don’t appreciate the occasional grand gesture, for I do. It’s just that, for me, the most loving gestures, the ones that glue your marriage together forever, are the ones that take place when things are not going well.
After I had Kelli I became sick. Really, badly sick. I required a hospital stay, separating me from my two week old baby. When I was discharged I was sent home with an IV pole and a visiting nurse who came twice a day. The nurse made a big deal about keeping an eye n the IV, making sure it was flushed at certain times and not allowed to become completely empty. All kinds of things that we were not, being relatively healthy people, familiar with. At one point, in total exhaustion I fell asleep without flushing my IV. I awoke sometime later to see Dave standing over me performing the task. He gently touched my head, kissed me and said "go back to sleep, you need the rest". We had been married nine years but it was that moment that it came to me totally and completely that I had married the right man. A man who would be there when I was old and sick. A man who knew how to love. He knew how to give of himself.
Since then, there have been many, many such selfless gestures. Too many to count. I am living in a romantic paradise. No, I don’t get flowers very often, he doesn’t serenade me with his guitar. There are no magnums of Champagne. There is just daily sacrifice, selfless giving and a gentleness with me that I wouldn’t trade for every rose in the world.
My romantic paradise is a older, slightly shabby blue house in a middle class village in the middle of Long Island. My paradise is full of dents and dings (much like it’s owners), my paradise is often in need of some maintenance or updating. It is thoroughly commonplace, totally mediocre and filled with such love that I am surprised it’s not visible from the street.
True romance – I’ll take it any day over Hollywood.