Close to Home:
If I could force your hand through blood, flesh, and bone wrapping each of your fingers tightly around my heart, maybe then, for a moment, you would know how often it beats for you and how genuine I am when I tell you, “You are loved.”
These words, penned in the winter of 1996, were presented to a handsome, intelligent, and quiet young man by yours truly in the form of a Valentine. Back then, when our love was hot as fire, flames of intensity swallowed whole any naggings, doubts, or complicated questions that could dampen a romantic inferno like spit laced fingers snuffing out the blaze of a candle setting moods sweet and dreamy. Back when our love was brand spanking new, still wrapped in shiny cellophane and ribbons, I wasn’t sure if he would treasure it, after years of wear and tear, after memorizing every flaw and wrinkle. But I squealed with delight when he offered to try and asked me, on bended knee, to do the same.
“Where were we?” my children wonder, looking at the pictures of their mom and dad dressed to the nines. And they are shocked to discover why they couldn’t attend the wedding, “Weren’t you so sad and bored without us?” Truth be told, I can hardly remember how Troy and I spent our time alone, before babies and car seats and constant interruptions, before bedtimes, and homework, and minivans. It takes effort to go back, to find that person behind the role of husband, father and provider. It takes discipline to keep treasuring a love worn and weathered from a decade of stretching and adapting – to adulthood, parenthood, and the onslaught of growing responsibilities. It takes a man, good and noble, to serve his wife by submitting to Christ, adoring her with holy and pure affection. It takes a marriage upheld by Faith to keep a covenant from crumbling, due to selfishness and worldly persuasions. But in the context of the Church, there is joy and salvation in this sacrament both miraculous and merciful. It takes a wife this appreciative to praise God every evening for the partner, warm and stable, at her side.
So to Troy, on our tenth anniversary, I offer up words once again. For though we may be out of breath, out of our minds, and out of money, I am full of motivation to express these sentiments before distraction and busyness steal our thunder. When you temper my anxiety with calmness, when you gather up our family for prayer, when you demand that our children respect me, I feel cherished. When the future is hazy and uncertain, when I think I’m in over my head – with adulthood, parenthood, and the onslaught of growing responsibilities, I take comfort in your shoulders always ready and willing to share the weight and ease my heavy load. And while this heart, now bigger and wiser, has grown more or less accustomed to the doubts, it still maintains its steady, passionate, beat. Because the trials I feared would separate us, rather fused what was two into one; the uphill climbs only strengthened our resolve.
Husbands, never call her simply by her name, said St. John Chrysostom in his homily on Ephesians, but with terms of endearment, with honor, with much love. Honor her, and she will not need honor from others; she will not want the glory that comes from others, if she enjoys that which comes from thee. Prefer her before all, on every account, both for her beauty and her discernment, and praise her.
What more could a wife ever dream of? What lavishness could compare with being honored by a virtuous husband? When the flowers wilt, when the dinner is consumed, when the cards are packed away with dusty photos, this, my dear Troy, is the gift I will continuously revel in – being loved by a man such as you.
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