How Getting Sick Helped My Marriage
He never averted his eyes.
You showed me that it was all right to be happy.
"How can you stand it?" I asked him, when he came home from work at night, only to have to tackle an additional mountain of accrued tasks. There was mail to open, books to put away, printers to fill, food to warm, buttons to unbutton, presents to wrap. I once relied on his eyes, his brains. Now I needed his hands, too.
If I have to do this every day for the rest of my life.
He started bringing me scissors—sewing shears, meat scissors, paper cutters, clippers with specially designed handles, spring-loaded cutters—until I found a pair that I could operate. He bought me fat magic markers that I could grasp in my fist and a buttonhook. Every morning he unscrewed bottles of water, de-foiled cups of yogurt, opened cartons of milk, and then closed them up and put them back in the refrigerator so I could have access to them later. All this he did without fanfare or comment. All this he did so I wouldn't always have to feel stranded.
You made me see that I could.
Begin at the end.
This is not a story about how crisis can rejuvenate love or whisk us to new heights or strengthen and improve a relationship. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, but more often than not it eventually just blends in like paint, stroked smoother and longer and wider, until it disappears into the plain—remembered but not perceived. The landscape reverts to sameness. In a society that exalts the special and the different, do we dare to posit that sameness may be our salvation?
There is a fortitude in something that has always stood.
Marriage is sameness. It is a contraption, at times creakier than others, with a discrete set of ropes and pulleys that two partners pass back and forth between each other until they can no longer. It is a fabric with a fixed set of threads weaving in and out of the patterns, showing up here, then showing up there, again. The fibers weave a sameness, the very sameness that impels some people to divorce, others to mate for life.
I will never make a complete recovery. This is a hard sentence to say, an even harder sentence to write. But this is not a story about me. This is the story of a marriage, a marriage that granted, in every state of change, sameness. A marriage that, when people asked, "How are things?" allowed me to answer, "The same."
By all accounts, it was a fine marriage. It saw two big bumps but it has seen even more paved road. And so Will and I continue to pass the same ropes back and forth, to follow the same finite set of threads as they disappear and return.
It is a fine marriage. We are fine. It is possible that we once sensed, in ways both acute and distant, that there might be something more out there, something thrilling and transforming, but now we know that we were wrong.
From the February 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.