Inspired by “Old Faithful Testing the limits of love” By David Sedaris
The last five years have been a test of the marriage vow we took in 1987; you know, the one about loving each other forever, in sickness and health. I sure did test my partner with those words. My body called for not one but two artificial knees during that time. The left knee in 2018 and the right in 2021, smack damn in the middle of the pandemic. Trust me when I say you never want to do even one if you don’t need it. And I mean last resort.
I’ve had other medical issues over the years of our marriage (if you don’t count the drugs and alcohol). There was the Hepatitis C scare. I’m cured, but the news came five months after I stopped drinking and taking drugs. The doctor told us that if I had continued, it would have been catastrophic for me, like throwing alcohol on fire. I missed that bullet.
My lower back pains, sciatica shooting down my right leg, high blood pressure, some crazy chronic cough that we think is acid reflux, and my general yo-yo weight fight. Other than those issues, I’m probably a diabetic, anxiously waiting for whatever else comes with high blood pressure. And she still stays with me. I mean, she’s had some issues over the years but compared to me, she is strictly an amateur. No, I got her beat.
We both have worked from home for the last nearly three years of the pandemic. School classes have begun to open up, so I attend more in person each semester. But I still stay home for homework and some Zoom meetings as much as possible. My partner does almost all of her sessions on Zoom. As a result, no matter how much space we give each other in our house (thank goodness for the size of the house), we still need to interact more often than when we were both working full-time at our respective jobs in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from living and working at home during the pandemic: give each other space. Otherwise, you are inviting trouble. Of course, that was hard to do when you needed help during one of my medical issues, like when I was not that agile with a busted knee. The trip to the bathroom was like an adventure in mountain climbing, as in climbing out of bed, holding on to the metal bars of the walker, lowering oneself, and raising myself on and off the toilet. The shower had its own set of challenges. Considering how dependent I was in those first few weeks of my knee surgeries, I got to give my partner credit for hanging in as long as she did. Let’s say she’s a little queasy about looking at blood and scars and those yellow pus marks on top of bandages.
I think about other couples I’ve known over the years who have had their marriage tested by far more significant medical challenges than my lousy knees etc. Cancer, terrible life-threatening accidents, dementia- I feel stupid talking about my issues. However, there is no escaping the fact that a marriage can be tested by other conditions that we seldom want to discuss. For example, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other mental health crises. All these and more spur the couple to confront the limits of what they are willing to endure and what they are eager to do to resolve them so their marriage remains intact.
It’s easy to say, well, you made a vow and that you should live by that code. Yeah, that’s easier said than done. I’ve learned over three marriages and two live-in relationships that all the tests of the relationship cannot be passed if both parties aren’t willing to endure it and pass through it together. If the foundation of love or whatever you want to call it isn’t there, then forget it. I mean, sometimes, the tests call out the best in people, and couples who may have been on the edge of disarray end up discovering something deep down inside of themselves and then use it to move through the crisis together, and they all live happily ever after or at least until the next crisis.
I am lucky that my partner has a deep reservoir of humanity in her and that I’ve discovered that I have one that I didn’t know existed. The past five years, especially the last three, challenged us both to take our vows seriously and to live each day contemplating what we meant when we said those words, “…until death do us part.” So far, we’ve come out on this end together and still rocking that love thing.