My husband had little to offer me when we married; his friendship and his tender passion for me and philosophy. In some regard I think we were worse off than a couple of crazy kids who unwittingly jump into each other's lives for the long haul without the foggiest idea of more than idealism.
He was poor. I was poorer. We had five kids between us and a couple of decades of bad luck apiece. A month or so before our ceremony his sister called to tell me she had a couple of old rings she'd like me to choose from, since we weren't officially engaged if there wasn't a ring. I've faithfully worn the beautiful gold band she gave us since the day I put it on. His ring is a $30 sterling silver Walmart special (and I wore it on a chain around my neck for four months after the stroke while I waited for the edema in his affected hand to subside enough to slip it on his finger again.) This is how a philosopher and a poet marry—in grand romantic style. We came together, because we couldn't go on living apart. Because we were willing to acknowledge all of the other comforts that we might aspire to separately we could live without.
I think we thought we had nothing to lose.
He apologizes sometimes. Says things like, "I know you didn't sign up for this." And I snort and laugh, and maybe give him my best look that replies What the devil are you talking about? without saying a word.
He tells me often that he needs me to hold and reassure him that he's enough of a husband. I stroke his lovely brow and point out that he's my best friend, that I enjoy laying around with him reading and talking and sometimes just sitting in silence. I mention the implied nature of his dependence because he is wheelchair-bound with hemiplegia, and that, yes, when I agreed in our first set of vows to love for better and worse, in sickness and health, I had no idea these circumstances were in store. But by our second set of vows, I wheeled him up to the altar with full knowledge of life after stroke and the indictment of life with acquired epilepsy. I knelt across from him and said yes to anything else that might come before our exit call, and to everything else we look forward to after our term of endurance. And then, in order to seal our eternal companionship, I lay my body across that altar to reach him, and I pressed my lips to his sweet mouth knowing that there was sacrifice in my cards.
It's sometimes disarming how unbelievably happy I find myself amid all this uncertainty, desperation, and hardship; such a strange and blissful juxtaposition. I still chuckle to myself when I remember our Stake President asking me whether I was still in love with Mr. PNU some months after the stroke. I'm sure in many ways our staying power baffles a lot of people. I admit to maintaining my romanticism. I truly think love can conquer all, but that doesn't mean there won't be a good deal of work involved in the process of loving fiercely, completely, well. Ease is something I can live without. My husband is not.