My mother lays in the living room dying of cancer. Her husband of 48 years, my father, meticulously, lovingly takes care of her every need in the last few weeks of her life. Why have I never seen this before?
I now believe in the American love story. For years, I have been bombarded with numerous stories of how almost two-thirds of all marriages end in failure. But what about the 35% that do not? I know of dozens of couples who have been married for decades. My friend Jim has a gay uncle who has been with his partner for over fifty years. How do these people make it work?
My parent’s marriage should have never lasted. When my father married my mother he converted to Catholicism and his Pentecostal family all but disowned him. My mother was an only child so these two very young people had to be largely self -sufficient and they successfully took my family from working class to middle class status. Why don’t we hear about these type of people? Not the divorced couples who squabble over visitation and 401K’s but couples who argue, negotiate, compromise, forgive and commit their way into countless years of love.
During their marriage, my father has had a heart attack, two bypass surgeries and two forms of cancer. My mother’s compulsive shopping almost drove them into bankruptcy. But these two sweet, unselfish, funny people never gave up on each other and remained true to the end. My brother and I have found this an almost impossible standard to match. After several failures and near misses, we now find ourselves in our forties with our correct partners, attempting to emulate the American love story of my parents.
Last night I watched my father pour Glucerna into a feeding tube in my mother’s intestine. And it was the sexiest, most romantic and loving gesture I have ever witnessed between two people. I felt as if I was imposing upon a private moment. I wasn’t sure who was giving who sustenance though. But then I realized they were nurturing each other.
I believe in the American love story of toughing it out during hard times and committing to each other through adversity. We are going through a very difficult economic and political time at this moment. Let’s love.
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