That Doesn’t​ Help

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. Over the past few months I have been rehearsing for a play and last week was the week before we opened. This means, for those who are not into theater, that I worked all day and then went to rehearsal during the evening. Most nights, I was there until around 11:30 p.m. I am not complaining, I love it. However, it did make it more difficult than I realized to get out a post. So, anyways, that’s my reason for the little hiatus.

Over the past few weeks, Andrea has been going every day to radiation. While it is frustrating that our lives are literally put on hold each day, the good thing is that she has not experienced some of the horrible effects that we were warned about. For the most part, she is just really tired, other than that, she is doing great.

In some respects, we are getting back to life as usual. That doesn’t mean that everything has been wonderful. One of the things we are plagued with during our cancer treatment is the constant commenting we get from people. Most people are genuinely sweet. However, there are those few who feel it is their job to offer their medical advice, comment on our own medical decisions, inform us of the problems with our eating habits with no knowledge of what we ingest, and some even try to help by telling their stories of pain, destruction and the ultimate death of their loved ones.

I get why people do this. The problem is that it does not help us out at all. Take for instance the conversation my wife had a few weeks ago. While in a store she came into conversation with a person while checking out. As is usual, this person commented on her hair. Most people assume it’s a chosen hairstyle. We normally laugh this off when we get into the car. Some people don’t stop at the complementing and proceed to ask, “why?” she chose the hairstyle. When this is asked, we are honest. It’s not for fashion, it’s Scruffy’s fault.

The individual who commented on Andrea’s hair began a long diatribe about a family member who lost their battle with breast cancer. I wasn’t there to hear the story, I just was at home when Andrea came in with tears in her eyes. I am sure the woman was trying to sympathize, but it only brought out the same fear that we have lived with since last June. The fear that the cancer isn’t really gone. The fear that Ole Scruffy will come back. The fear that my wife will still die.

As I have said before, one of the problems with battling cancer is that it is very lonely. A lot of people see the pictures of victory we publish on facebook. No one sees the tears we cry late at night. Conversations, like the one Andrea had, only exacerbate the issues. They only force us to relive the whole ordeal over again. I know people are trying to be kind, but instead of offering a balm for our souls they are wrenching a knife deep into our hearts.

That very same week I stayed late after a rehearsal to socialize with the cast. Andrea normally doesn’t care, she just goes to bed. When I called her on the way home I could tell something was wrong. As I listened to her talk I could hear in the tremble of her voice that she had been crying for awhile. I asked her why she didn’t tell me to come home. Her response was typical Andrea, she told me she didn’t want to bother me or rob me of having a good time with friends.

When I got home I found my bride curled up in bed. She was just staring out into the darkness. Her eyes were red from a long bout with fear. I had no words. I just got ready for bed, pulled her close, and let her weep on me. To be fair, I wept on her as well. We ended up staying up another hour. We didn’t talk much. We just wanted to feel the other person’s heart beating.

People are not privy to our pain. No matter how well I describe it, no one will ever be able to experience it on the same level that we do. Our story, our struggle, is unique to us. It’s unique to everyone who goes through any type of tragedy. I know personally the need to process what is being experienced. That’s the main purpose of this blog right now. However, at this point in our journey, the stories of loss or the constant reminding us that our diet is the culprit for Ole Scruffy, or that if we just drank the Koolaid from whatever cult practice that is revolutionary, just adds to the stress. It rarely helps us heal. Most of the time, it adds to the well of sorrow we are trying to replace with joy. I know most people are not vicious, but it feels that way. I know most people want to help, unfortunately, it just opens old scars.

 

How I met her…

Since this week we celebrated the one day a year dedicated to affection, I figured it would be fun to share the story of how my bride and I started dating. The idea was sparked from a conversation I had recently where a friend of mine asked if marriage was hard. Telling my friend our story reminded me how thankful I am to know Andrea. It also gave me an opportunity to relive some of the greatest moments of our lives.

When my bride and I met we were both broken people. Both of us had made decisions in relationships we were not proud of. My wife was trying to step away from a guy who used her. Used is probably a nice way to say it. He, like many men, wanted her for her body, not her soul. He got what he wanted and left her in darkness. He took her surface and left her soul to rot. When I met her, she was dealing with guilt, shame, and remorse.

She found me in confusion. At an early age, I was introduced to sexuality without my consent. I had an older girl attempt to make me a man when I wasn’t ready and didn’t want it. Her advances broke me. It sent me into a spiral that led me to explore pornography as a way to cope. Porn destroyed me. It wrecked my understanding of sexuality and ruined my ability to date. I also tried to cope with my pain by finding solace in the arms of a girl I considered a dear friend. In the end, I hurt her because I never felt the same way she did. I was a coward and let it continue way too long. I used her affection as a way to feel better. For that, I will always carry regret.

By the time I met my bride, I was in a different relationship. I had convinced myself this one would end in marriage. My mind knew this wasn’t true, but my heart valiantly fought off the truth. When it ended, I was a mess. I needed someone to talk to and the only person I could think of was Andrea. So, I reached out to her. She graciously walked me through the breakup. She listened to my incessant blubbering about the lost relationship. She spent time with me and was just there. Later I would find out she was overjoyed that I was finally single because that meant I was available.

We went out a few times as friends. I was obsessive about telling her they weren’t dates. I didn’t want her to get the wrong idea. I was afraid she would think she was just a rebound. I had already hurt one girl I cared about and did not want to risk messing up this relationship. I did have feelings for her, but honestly never thought she would give me the time of day. If you have met my wife, you get what I mean. Andrea could have picked any guy she wanted, I knew this, I was just thankful to have her as a friend.

Then she made a decision that changed my life. I was sitting on a couch in one of the offices on campus. I don’t remember who I was talking to. I don’t remember what I was talking about. But I can still see my beautiful bride walking in the room. As she entered I knew she had something on her mind. She confidently walked up to me, looked me right in the face, and made a statement that is imprinted on my soul forever. She said, “I am free Friday night if you want to go on a real date.” I told her it sounded like a great idea.

The rest of the week I was a basket case. I sincerely wanted to go on a real date with her. However, I was still emotionally in a bad place. I had not fully let go of my previous relationship. This created a huge problem as she got in my truck to drive off to dinner. The drive was 20 minutes to the restaurant. About 5 minutes into the drive I obviously was in shambles. Andrea got really nervous about the situation and told me that if I didn’t want to go we could just head back. In a courageous attempt to sound romantic, I responded with, “No, let’s just get to the restaurant, I will be okay.” I know, really smooth right.

We got to the restaurant and it was wonderful. We talked the whole time. It was so easy to carry a conversation with her. I ordered my food and she claimed she wasn’t that hungry. That was a lie. She ended up eating all my mashed potatoes and most of my steak. I didn’t care. She could have taken it all. I was just happy to be in that booth with her. Somewhere between bites of food, we fell in love. I know it sounds stupid, but we both knew it. Something finally clicked. There was a connection with her that I had never felt with any other girl in my life. I had finally found the person I wanted to do life with. I found the person I wanted to give my soul to. I found my bride.

I was so overwhelmed with emotion that when we got back to school I wanted to seal this momentous occasion with a kiss. I picked a romantic spot under a street light on campus. Its glow gave just enough light to fill my truck. I looked into her face, her hair shining in the light behind her, and I learned in.

The kiss was awful. It was the worst thing I had ever experienced. For a moment I feared that this was not going to work out. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. Quickly I made a statement that has become a joke between us. I looked back at her and said, “I can do better than that, let’s try again.” We did kiss again, and it was wondrous. Since then I have chalked that moment up to nerves. We both were nervous, but I will gladly take the fall for being the one who messed that up. I know a couple’s first kiss is supposed to be something magical. Our first was wretched, the second was glorious and it has only gotten better since.

We made an intentional decision as we began to date to work on our friendship and not focus so much on the romance. I am thankful we did. Because we learned to spend time together without the tension of physical exploration we built a bond that goes deeper than sex. As we continued to date in this way, I fell in love with her mind. I fell in love with her soul. With every passing day, I longed more and more to spend the rest of my days in her presence.

So, on July 31, 2004, I said, “I do,” to a woman who truly made me whole. I mad a vow to the only human being who was uniquely made to put up with me. Andrea and I met each other broken. We both felt shame from previous relationships and considered ourselves unworthy. However, we were and are perfect for each other. We will spend the rest of our lives mending each other wounds. We will spend the rest of our lives putting each other back together.

Over the years, I have learned that marriage is a war. After years of marriage, we carry scars from the battles we have fought to make this thing work. We have made harsh statements to each other. We have hurt each other, but we have always been quick to forgive.  For me, it’s been worth the fight to get to spend the rest of my life next to my bride.

In honor of Valentine’s Day I wrote Andrea a poem to describe how I feel about her. You can see it below.

There once was a girl

Filled with beauty and grace

She was like no other

She could not be replaced

 

So Pretty, So Rare

She met a boy

So Silly, So Fair

She was Confident

He was Nervous

She was Courageous

He was Unworthy

 

There once was a girl

Filled with beauty and grace

She was like no other

She could not be replaced

 

She met a boy

And in her presence he stopped,

Lost thought

And could only stare

His life was changed and sent in a swirl

In a moment, a blink, she made his heart whirl

He never conceived something so rare

Could ever like him, love him or even care

 

There once was a girl

Filled with beauty and grace

She was like no other

She could not be replaced

 

She had eyes like the stars that shine in the night

They burned bright in the darkness of time

With one look

With one glance

She held the boy close

He lost breathe,

His heart skipped

 

There once was a girl

Filled with beauty and grace

She was like no other

She could not be replaced

 

She made a promise

In sickness, and death

He made a promise

To love and to hold

They made a promise

As long as they both should live

And sealed it with a kiss

 

There once was a girl

Filled with beauty and grace

She was like no other

She could not be replaced

And that girl was You!