Watch/listen for, and seize every chance to make your relationship even better.
My deepest thanks to gentlmnwritr for suggesting that I put this piece on its own. Like my earlier item, “Your Last Chance”, it touches on a subject extremely important to making anyone’s relationship with their partner as romantic, special to them, and deeply meaningful as it can possibly be.
And a very special thanks to sillyfilly3. She has read the autobiography from which this was taken, and knows the full meaning of this moment in my life. Her immediate and wholehearted support for this idea was all I needed in making my decision to open the doors to this very personal and very meaningful moment in my life, that others may enrich their own relationship.
There are many things that are important in building a romantic, loving and meaningful relationship. I want to touch on just two of them here.
One of those is keeping the romance in your relationship. We all want to do that. For some couples, the honeymoon never ends because they get so good at this.
Another is on the tough side of a relationship: doing what you have to do to handle problems as they arise, that either threaten your relationship or keep it from being at its best, especially in the romance department. Like things that constantly worry your partner. We all know that worrying keeps us from being as romantic as we, and our partners would like.
We need to remember that all of us are unique people, so what works for one couple won't work for all of us in specific terms. But a basic idea can work for all of us: keep your eyes and ears open for any chance to strengthen the romance in your relationship, take worries from your partner's shoulders, or both. And use those opportunities when they come along. The rewards can last forever.
For me, one event can illustrate both of these issues. My late wife Linda was also my high school sweetheart. We met during my senior year (she was a junior), and it was virtually love at first sight. We confessed our love for each other after knowing each other only four weeks. Yet we knew in our hearts it was real. She was 16, I was 17.
Five weeks later, as we headed back to her house after seeing her Junior Class play, she summoned the courage to tell me she was an epileptic. I immediately told her, gently but firmly, that it made absolutely no difference in the way I felt about her. That I loved her too much to let it make a difference in our relationship.
I had to repeat those words as we stood on her porch shortly thereafter, before she could even let herself begin to believe I’d really said them. Years of rejection by friends and classmates had sent her self-esteem to the bottom of an abyss. My words, once she believed them, took her to the mountaintop.
I wanted to make very sure that she knew I was fully serious, both about my love for her, and the epilepsy never changing that love. So, one week after she told me, on the afternoon of my senior prom, I asked her to marry me. Her squeal of “YES!” echoed through the school halls.
She graduated a year later, and we were married a year after that, in Newport, Ky. Both of us were 19.
She usually had 3-5 seizures a year for most of our married life, occasionally more. At the point where we pick up this special event in our life, we'd been married six years, and I'd let her know daily throughout that time that my love for her was only growing stronger. I'll quote from the autobiography I've already written about what came about on that very special night. I've never been able to find better words since putting this to paper:
Later that evening, as we sat in the living room, she confided to me that no matter how hard she had tried, she could not help but get worried after most of the seizures that she had around me, that somehow her seizures were still going to drive me away from her. That even after six years of marriage, including a good number of seizures along the way, and every statement I had made to the contrary, this was still a major concern. Considering how she had said long ago that for years she never thought she’d find someone who cared enough to look beyond the epilepsy, I suppose the fear of losing that special someone after a seizure, if she was lucky enough to find them to begin with, had become somewhat deeply ingrained within her.
Since that time I had been watching for, and very much aching for a way to prove to her once and for all that the seizures were not about to drive me away. To leave no doubt in her mind that I meant every word I had told her the night she first told me of the epilepsy; the night of her Junior Class Play, now over eight years ago: “Lin, if you’ve NEVER believed me before, PLEASE believe me NOW. It makes absolutely no difference in the way I feel about you. I still love you.”
One evening a few weeks later, as I was in the living room reading the paper, I heard that now all too familiar yell begin as a seizure struck. I wasn’t sure which room she was in, so I dropped the paper and ran for the hallway, intent on looking in each room as I passed until I spotted her. It didn’t take long.
As I entered the hallway, she lay before me, on her back in what had long ago become her “standard position”: legs going up and down while her arms went in and out from her sides. I was standing at her feet, watching and waiting as always, to assist her when she began to come to. But this time, as I stood there watching her, the motions of her body were giving me brief, but enticing peaks beneath her skirt. Repeatedly. Just a hint of her white thighs and what lay between them beneath those panties. And, with the depth of our love, I was getting ideas. While I was trying to decide if I would be “taking advantage of her” or not, I suddenly realized that what I saw before me, there on that hallway floor, was my chance to prove to her once and for all that the seizures, no matter how many she had ever had, or would ever have, would never drive me away.
As soon as she stopped moving about, my race against the clock began. I knelt down next to her and gently, lovingly began undressing her. Soon, still “sleeping it off” in “Phase II”, she lay naked before me.
Removing my own clothing as quickly as possible, I began slowly, gently making love to her. Right there on the hallway carpet. I took my time. I wanted her to be awake before I finished.
A few minutes later, she began stirring, and then opened her eyes. I made sure I kept a close eye on her face, especially her eyes. For the first half hour or so after a seizure she is unable to talk; her facial expressions are her only means of communication. She looked around, and, shortly, noticed not only that we were naked, but also what I was doing, and really let go emotionally. The grin on her face had only been that big once before: the day of my senior prom when I’d asked her to marry me. And the look in her eyes was that “utterly boundless and unending love” that she had felt so deeply the night of The Play, when I told her the epilepsy would never keep me from loving her. She ignored the monstrous headache, if indeed the euphoria she felt at that moment let her feel it at all, and made a clumsy effort to wrap her legs around mine. Knowing her intent and seeing the frustration on her face from not being able to do it (she’s a klutz after one of these things – no detailed muscle control for quite some time), I reached back, pulled her legs up and positioned them for her. Her grin returned. She tried her best to respond to me physically, but her lack of detailed muscle control made it a very difficult task. I saw the disappointment in her eyes.
“Honey,” I said warmly, “don’t worry about it. I know you want to do it, and I know how hard you’re trying. Those things alone show me the love and closeness you’re feeling right now. Just relax and enjoy it, darling. Let me spoil my wife a little.” I smiled warmly, and in a moment her wide grin returned as she nodded agreement. A few short minutes later we finished together, and just lay there snuggled together on that hall carpet, enjoying the closeness of the moment.
Later, after she’d gotten her speech back, we were sitting in the living room. NOW she felt the headache. She had taken the usual three aspirin before we sat down. Her head was on my shoulder.
“I want to thank you for making love to me like that.”
I knew where she was coming from, but I saw a chance to make a point and keep her from getting too down. “Honey,” I chuckled, you never have to thank me for making love, darling. You know that.”
“Yeah, I know,” she laughed. “But this time was different. I told you a long time ago that I was still afraid the seizures were going to scare you away, and now you find a way to make sure I know that will never happen. I love you, Jim!”
I embraced her. Tightly. Hearing that much emotion in her voice even got to me. “I love you, too, sweetheart. And hopefully, if I’ve done my job right, you know that now more than ever.” I kissed her. Hard, and passionately. Her lips parted.
“Yes, Jim, I know that now. And yes, more than ever. I’ll never worry about the seizures driving you away anymore.”
“Sweetheart, that’s what I’ve wanted ever since you told me it still worried you was to take that burden from your shoulders. If they do anything, they make me feel closer to you.”
“CLOSER to me??” she asked, totally surprised now that the fear was gone. “How? I… mean…?”
“Yes, Lin, closer to you. Because I get a very warm feeling from simply knowing that you need me. I like being needed. It gives me a purpose, just as you said my love gives you a purpose. You know, back when you found out I wasn’t going anywhere. That I intended to stay and be a part of your life.” As I said that, I knew she’d remember the night of The Play. That’s what I wanted. I wanted her to remember that night and realize that my love now was just as strong, if not stronger, than it was that wonderful night.
“Jim, not counting the afternoon of your Prom when you proposed to me, or our Wedding Day, that night was the most wonderful night of my life. Because you gave me something that night I thought I’d never see in my life. You gave me your love, and your heart,” she said as the tears started to build.
Those tears were becoming contagious. Looking in her eyes, and feeling all the emotion she’d just had in her voice as she answered, I found myself fighting them, too: “Thank you, Squeek. But never forget, darling, that on that Prom afternoon when I asked you to marry me, by saying ‘yes’ you gave me the very same thing: your love, and your heart. I owe you the same thanks, sweetheart!”
We held each other tightly, and went ahead and gave ourselves the luxury of crying those tears of joy, and of love. I was deeply warmed by the fact that my sudden inspiration had done what I’d hoped it would do – rid her of the fear that the seizures would still drive me away – but I was feeling even more warmed, and content, and at peace inside because of the way the Lord had just used that same wonderful moment between us to deepen our relationship even more and bring us even closer to each other.
I lost her just 5 ½ years later, after only 11 ½ years of wonderful, very romantic and meaningful marriage. She had a seizure the evening of Monday, March 3, 1980, striking her head on the tile wall in our bathroom. She died instantly. She was 30. I was 31.
Yes, I could have padded all the walls in our apartment, and the thought briefly crossed my mind. But she would have felt like a prisoner in her own home, just like she'd felt in her parents' home all those years, and that's not what she wanted. She wanted to be treated like everyone else. And our love meant I could do no less.
Remember what I said above about keeping the romance in your relationship and doing what you have to do to keep it growing and secure? I have no regrets about our relationship whatsoever. None for:
Falling in love with her when she was 16, I was 17, and believing it was right.
Looking beyond the seizures and loving her as every person longs to be loved.
Leaving my family behind at 18 to be with her. My parents didn’t want me to see her again until after college. Their refusal to consider my feelings on the subject forced me to make a choice, and the legal age in Ohio then was 21.
Eloping at 19. My life was already devoted to her, and had been for 2 years. This just gave me the best possible chance to prove that.
The countless times I cared for her after seizures until she was fully recovered. Those were another chance to prove my devotion.
But most of all, I have no regrets about giving her a normal life after her years of “self-imposed isolation”. About setting her free, supporting her in everything she undertook, and watching her grow from a shy, introverted, frightened 16-year-old into a wonderfully outgoing woman with a marvelous zest for life and a sense of humor to match.
Regrets? Nope. Never have, never will.
It still hurts, very deeply, to be without her, even after 37 years. But I wouldn’t change a moment of what we had between us for anything in the world. Strange as it may seem, those seizures that had driven so many others away from her over the years became an integral part of our devotion to each other. If I was around when one hit, I made sure I was ALWAYS the first thing she saw when her eyes opened again. That put her at ease and brought a weak smile to her face, no matter where we were. She knew it didn't matter where we were, because I was there to look after her. I've already said that the devotion the seizures gave us worked both ways. She didn't let a day go by without letting me know how grateful she was to me for not walking away like all the others. And often, she'd surprise me in return by suggesting some intimate ideas at times when I'd least expect them to come up. I can honestly say, that for the whole 14 years of our relationship, we never once turned down the other's intimate advances. Why? Those moments, each and every one of them, only served to deepen our love and devotion to each other even more.
That moment, along with many others in our life together, added immeasurably to our relationship, both romantically, and to her peace of mind, which made our future romantic endeavors even better, and our relationship even stronger. Keep your eyes and ears open. You never know when you'll have a chance to do something that will really have a long-lasting, wonderfully meaningful impact on your relationship.