Young people always look at cute old couples like Paul and I, married for over four decades, friends for more than five. “How do you know when you’re really in love?” they ask, wide eyed with admiration. “How can you tell that this is the person who was destined to be your one and only?”
And the truth is, I have no idea. I don’t know how you can tell in advance that the person you desire, love, laugh with and hold dear will turn out to be someone you’ll still want to sleep with in 40 years.
But I know how to tell once you’re in a relationship that it’s a partnership designed to last.
If the stresses and strifes of everyday existence begin to take the shine off your romance, and you begin to tell yourself that you really coulda done better, it is time for one of you to have surgery.
I know this from recent experience.
A dirty dish left on the coffee table became a ten minute rant from yours truly. Forgetting to water the lawn caused a deep sigh of silent rebuke from the hubby. We were annoying each other in tiny ways all day.
What with the lockdown, the mask wearing, all of the election nonsense and our crashing economy, both Paul and I have been a little cranky the past few months. We’ve argued more than usual, and it was all about the little stupid things that mean nothing but get on your last nerve.
But then Paul had his knee taken apart and put back together again. He spent two nights in the hospital before coming home on oxycodone, pushing a walker, and wrapped up in gauze.
It was on the first night after the surgery that I realized maybe I still love him after all.
I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I’d been looking forward to a night at home alone. I cooked myself some tofu. I watched what a documentary of my own choosing. I went to bed and snuggled in with nobody to steal the covers.
Then I laid awake worrying that Paul was in pain, that the hospital was noisy, that he might have a blood clot (seriously?). I didn’t like the empty space on the bed. I called the dogs up to join me, but their claws against my back weren’t the kind of cuddle I’d been looking for.
The next day I took care of my little grandson, but I worried about Paul the whole time. I went to visit him, and found myself asking a million questions of the poor staff. They were details that Paul hadn’t thought about, but I felt like I HAD to know everything. I took notes about medication, ice, therapy plans, blood tests.
When I got home, I reorganized furniture to make more room for the patient to move around. I ate my lonely leftover tofu and went to bed early, where I tossed and turned trying to imagine how I’d get Paul and his walker up the six steps to our home’s main floor.
And that’s when I knew that after all this time, we are in this marriage for good. I finally have my definition of true love.
True love is when you honestly mean it when you tell your honey to wake you up if he has to pee in the night. True love is when you walk him to the couch, refill the ice in his Polar Care ice water circulator, make his breakfast and bring him his pills. All before you even think about your own esspresso.
True love is really, sincerely wishing you could feel the pain for him for an hour or so, just to get him some relief.
And it’s being eternally grateful that you married someone who says ‘thanks’ and doesn’t complain.
Most of all, true love is being with someone who you know, without a doubt, would do all the same things for you if it was your knee that was rebuilt.