Staying Close

Ginny Taylor - Cortland, Ohio
As heard on This I Believe Podcast, February 5, 2018
Ginny Taylor

Ginny Taylor has come to believe that during tough times, love has the opportunity to become stronger, when one partner learns to lean on the other.

Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, love
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My husband and I had been married nearly twenty-two years when I acquired Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a disorder where my immune system responded to a virus by producing painful blisters all over my body. Although my long-term prognosis was good, I, who had been so fiercely independent, rapidly became utterly helpless.

My husband, Scott, stepped up to the plate, taking care of kids, running errands, and cooking dinners. He also became my personal caretaker, applying the cortisone to all of my blisters because my hands couldn’t do the job. Needless to say, I was a seesaw of negative emotions, bouncing from embarrassment induced by my reflection in the mirror to humiliation induced by total reliance on someone other than myself.

At one point when I had mentally and physically hit bottom, I remember thinking that Scott must somehow love me more than I could ever love him. With my illness he had become the stronger one, and I the weaker one. And this disturbed me.

I recovered from my illness, but I couldn’t seem to recover from the thought that I loved my husband less than he loved me. What kind of wife was I to even think this? Had I always assumed I would be the stronger, healthier one? Or did I just not know how to be a good patient? This seeming disparity in our love continued to irritate me for the year following my illness.

Then recently Scott and I went on a long bike ride. He’s an experienced cyclist; I’m quite the novice. At one point with a strong headwind and sharp pain building in my tired legs, I really thought I couldn’t go any further. Seeing me struggle, Scott pulled in front of me and yelled over his shoulder, “Stay close behind me.” As I fell into the draft of his six-foot-three-inch frame, I discovered that my legs quit burning as my pedaling became easier, and I was able to catch my breath. My husband was pulling me along—again.

This is what I now believe: that love between two people is powerful, infinite, and so big that it can never be quantified into more or less. True love—not the sensationalized, watered-down media version—is forged by the fire of countless job changes, late nights with sick kids, days of trying to make ends meet, and years of trying to keep the romantic side of our love alive. I also now believe that during these and other tough times, love has the opportunity to become stronger when one partner learns to lean on the other.

I pray my husband will always be strong and healthy. But if he should ever become the struggling one, whether on a bike ride or with an illness, I trust I’ll be ready to call out to him, “Stay close behind me—my turn to pull you along.”

Ginny Taylor lives and writes in northeastern Ohio. By day, she is Registrar at Hiram College. Having just completed her MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland University, she is writing her first book, a memoir. You can follow her writing adventures at The Wilderness Table. Ms. Taylor and her husband continue to rediscover their 30-year marriage of love and trust one day, one bike ride at a time. This essay is featured in the book "This I Believe On Love" which can be purchased here.

Independently produced by Dan Gediman for This I Believe, Inc.