Saturday, February 14, 2009

What is love made of?

And now I will show you the most excellent way. – 1 Corinthians 12:31b (NIV)

Hubby and I don’t do Valentine’s Day. For some reason, it’s never been an important event on our life calendar.

Oh, I tried to make it an event a few times. One year I cooked up a special dinner: roast beef heart and pink mashed potatoes, a meal we endured only once. A greeting card never seems to say what I want it to say, even when I make the card myself.

Perhaps it’s that what I feel for my husband of 35 years goes beyond words.

And I think the 35 years has a lot to do with it.

In the early years, I looked for what I could get in the relationship: companionship, love, support, a listening ear, sympathy. What I got was a man who worked 10 to 12 hour days five days a week, provided firewood, fixed things (an unending job because something always needs fixed), and built me a house. He’s been a good father to our three children—a softy, I always called him. But his softness balanced my harshness.

I’ve never seen him angry—upset a few times, but never angry. Even when I tried to pick a fight, he never took the bait. And he’s always supported me in my dreams. I dedicated my second book to him with these words: “To the man who fixes dinner, washes the dishes and clothes, dusts and vacuums, shops for groceries and puts them away, does the ‘kid runs’—the myriad of daily tasks considered ‘women’s work’—so that I could have the time to write. To the man who told me that he felt God’s will for his life was to free up my time so I could follow God’s call for my life.”

And whether I decided to go to work outside the home or quit the job I had, he always supported my decision.

Although he “suggests” ways my cooking could be improved, he’s always eaten everything I’ve made, even when I couldn’t. Proving he told the truth when we were dating when he said, “I was in the service. I can eat anything.”

And now that the nest is empty, he still looks for ways to help the kids out, being the handyman for our daughter in South Carolina when we visit, to our daughter-in-law next door when our son’s job requires extended times away from home, and being the car repair guy and consultant when our youngest son’s old car breaks down again. Whenever they call, any time of the day or night, he’s available to them.

But we’re learning to do things for “us” too. We’ve set aside Friday night as our “date night.” No chores when he comes home from work—and he better be home by 5:30. Homemade pizza and a movie. But he rarely makes it through the movie. I hear his soft snores around nine. I don’t even bother waking him up to go to bed. It never works and he doesn’t even remember. I just cover him with a blanket, turn off the TV, turn down the lights and softly kiss him on the forehead. He’ll get to bed eventually.

I used to feel sorry for myself when he neglected to say “I love you” every day. But—don’t tell him this—lately I’ve come to realize I don’t need to hear it. I see it—in the tired lines around his eyes, in the gray streaks through his beard, in the increasing stoop of his shoulders, in the slower pace of his steps. I hear “I love you” shouted from the stack of firewood by the wood stove, from the packages of venison and vegetables and berries in the freezer, from the 1997 Explorer that he’s fixed and fixed and fixed. The walls of the house he built are his arms around me day and night.

“Saturday’s Valentine’s Day,” I said one night this past week as we sat at the supper table.

He looked up. “What do you want to do?”

I smiled. “Nothing, really. I’m such a homebody anymore.”

He smiled and nodded. He feels the same way. After a 58-hour work week, all he wants is a good supper and a soft couch.

“We never did do Valentine’s Day, did we?” I said. “I wonder why.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes. Then it hit me.

“Because with you,” I said, warmth coursing through me, “I have Valentine’s Day every day.”

Dear God, You gave me the perfect life companion. Not a perfect man, but the man perfect for me. Thank you. Amen.

Special-Tea: Read 1 Corinthians 13

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