We ride mostly in silence, indicative of the comfort we feel with each other after all these years. Eva Cassidy serenades with a jazzy version of “I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.” Bill gives my hand a squeeze. I notice the lines engraved on his face and think of the Psalmist's words, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.” The smile and laugh lines etched deeply around his eyes tell of his life’s pleasant places. Despite ups and downs in our relationship and life’s challenges, he has traveled this road with levity, and it shows.
One of my favorite Bill stories took place when our sons were young and we struggled to support them on his single salary while I stayed home. He drove a car with an exhaust system that blew inside our vehicle rather than outside, arriving home in the evening smelling like carbon monoxide. A long-awaited raise and promotion at work allowed us to purchase a newer car with exhaust blowing in the right direction. One of his coworkers ribbed him about his new and spiffy Ford Taurus station wagon saying, “Now that you’re making the big bucks, Bill, you had to go buy a new car?” First of all, the bucks weren’t all that big. Second of all, I would’ve sassed the man over his sarcastic comment. But my husband handled him with customary humor by saying, “You know Steve, making the big bucks hasn’t changed me a bit. Why, I was just saying to my house boy, Hop Sing, this morning….”
Bill has handled me with the same good-natured personality. During rough spots in our marriage, he always brought winsomeness to our struggles. During years when we both failed to constructively express and communicate our disappointments and frustrations to each other (he became withdrawn and I became mouthy), he learned over time to model to me the art of telling the truth in love. Coming from a broken, unhealthy famiIy, I needed someone to try a different tactic to build a marriage with me; my husband succeeded.Bill never compounded my past hurts by revisiting and mimicking them. Despite meltdowns on my part, my husband refused to stop loving me. He never attempted to control me with verbal tirades. He never put me in my place, gave up, listed my faults though many, lashed out, said an unkind word, or left. His very calming presence formed the perfect recipe for healing a troubled past. His behavior spoke to the steady and loving gift he has been in my life.
Today he never pats himself on the back for his altruistic behavior. I’ve calmed and healed, and he’s learned to express himself - some might say a little too much. He doesn’t take credit for his contribution to our marriage although that contribution is massive. He pretends (almost) that he never noticed I was a challenge. And that is love.
Serenaded, comforted and healed, we continue on down the road, a shared loved-one ahead waiting for us. Bill’s smile lines appear as he squints against the morning light that showers over us in the early hours of dawn.