I Loved Him Then

I had never seen his face. I fell in love with the sound of his voice on the telephone. It was the easy way he laughed at all my jokes, the surprising comfort we found in lapses of silence with a stranger. Hanging up, I floated through a sea of cubicles past coworkers with pinched expressions. They poured over open files while my heart, cracked wide open and exposed, gave away my secret.

My best friend, hunched over her desk with rounded shoulders, straightened up when she saw me, interrogating me with one raised eyebrow. She sat twirling her hair with one hand and tapping a pen on her desk with the other. She looked at me like I’d grown two heads when I practically sang the words I couldn’t contain.

“I love him. I’m going to marry that man.” It felt good to say it.

“Get a grip, girl. You’ve never met him. Check your hormones and go back to work.” She dismissed me with a grunt and a wave of her hand.

I married that man. On a hot August morning by my parents’ pool, we made promises. We recited vows. We took communion in the altar of a gazebo, covered with fresh roses and peonies. His Harley was decorated by the wedding party. We drove away in bliss.

When we knelt in the heat of that summer sun repeating “for better or worse”, we had no idea what “worse” would look like. Like a shapeshifter in a fantasy film, it changed forms from an adopted son going to jail to a daughter turning her back on everything we taught her. When I trembled, he was a rock, sure and steady against desert winds blowing tumbleweed through our lives. He was a sanctuary I returned to often. He made the “worse” better.

“In sickness and health” I had whispered through the veil. I couldn’t see what was coming for me, the fierce angry cloud of depression that shoved me mercilessly face-down into cave darkness. For months while I slept the days away, he sat by the bed gazing at my closed lids as if he could will the darkness to flee just by shining his love on the despair. He was the strong arm of God never letting go. It was unfailing love that drove the sickness away.

He opens doors and carries the heavy end of life on his shoulders. He has brought me coffee in bed every morning for almost three decades. That’s 10,220 times. He’s faithful. He leaves the stress of the office at our front door. He asks if I would like a cup of tea. In his selflessness, I’ve seen the face of God.

When I was overwhelmed with fear before surgery, he stayed up all night reading the Psalms to me and rubbing my feet. When I think I don’t deserve him, I know I’m right. I was sure of it the moment I first heard his voice. I loved him then and I love him still.