2:45 AM. Damnit. I lie still and listen to Amy’s gentle breathing, and wonder if I can get out of bed without waking her. This medicine has me getting up at least once a night and I’ve succeeded in waking her in the middle of the last 12 nights. Maybe if I get out of bed very slowly, I won’t wake her. I painfully lift my left leg out of bed, draw a deep breath, grip the aluminum walker and hoist myself up and out of bed then wait as my eyes adjust to the anemic light. As I stand the aluminum tubes of the walker creak, the stitches in my leg tug against one another. I inhale quickly and brace myself as the stars flash and pop before my eyes. Damn. I’m only 50 but the reconstructive knee surgery I’ve just been through has me feeling much older. I carefully head towards the bathroom, hoping I don’t wake her but I’m moving so slow and my 185 pounds has this damn walker creaking like an old Cadillac coasting over the speed bump in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
“Oh honey, what are you doing?”
“Uh, going to the bathroom.”
She turns on the light then asks if I need any help.
“No thank you sweetheart, I’ll be fine.”
When I’m finished I wash my hands and look in the mirror and I see myself much, much younger. I’m in a tuxedo; in a church in Memphis and the aroma of all the fresh flowers is intoxicating. I take Amy’s trembling hand in mine as the priest asks me to repeat those well-known lines.
“…for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death…”
I gently caress her fingers and look into her sparkling eyes. I can remember thinking that she never looked more radiant, more beautiful. What had I done to deserve the love of this amazing woman? And as I repeated the priest’s lines I’m certain that I saw nothing but sex and chocolate, cold beer and fried oysters, sailboats and kisses. Yes we loved each other very much but like any other young couple, we could only imagine how wonderful our lives were about to become. Tonight, at almost three am, that measurement of wonderful is help in the bathroom. “Do you need help in the bathroom?” Not chocolate, wine or caviar but help with the most private of daily chores.
We’ve been rich and poor, sick and healthy but it’s easy to cherish one another during the good times. The kisses are free and easy when you’re taking applause from the crowd, surprised her with a new car, brought home a fat bonus or just finished up your third appearance on a nationally broadcast TV show. Who wouldn’t love you then? True love though, manifests itself in the dark, when the bank account teeters, when the car breaks down, when you need help in the bathroom. If your marriage is going to work, look beyond the sex and chocolate and see yourself at your worst. When life gets messy and gritty will she be there next to you, will she smile and offer encouragement, will she lift you up instead of knock you down? Love should survive the test and look forward to tomorrow, not look back at yesterday with regret.
Amy helps me back in bed as I apologize for waking her. She offers me a warm hug then climbs out of bed and into the kitchen. Five minutes later she’s back with two cups of hot chocolate, resplendent with cinnamon and honey. She climbs into bed then we toast one another with the chocolate. She carefully places her cheek next to mine then kisses me.
“I love you Amy.”