The Things We Do for Love
by Cynthia Ruchti
Did you hear the story about the professional wrestler who yanked a tree out of the ground to bust a window and remove his aged mother from their burning home?
A friend of mine is a new mom. Her newborn has cried almost every waking moment of his first three months of life. She and her husband are still waiting to capture a picture of the baby smiling. Mom and Dad have to take turns sleeping.
The things we do for love!
I listened all night long to his breath sounds. Steady. Good. I wasn’t a new mom bent over the crib of her newborn. The breath sounds came from my husband of forty years as I curled into a too-small chair beside his hospital bed.
Hours earlier, I’d followed the ambulance into town, praying the paramedics in the flashing, screaming, racing vehicle were finding a way to ease my husband’s pain. He’d fallen out of a tree while hunting. The frozen ground broke his fall, and his femur, and his back.
And so began a new phase in our relationship.
In middle school, we’d caught each other’s attention. In high school, we caught each other’s hearts. In college, we navigated the engagement stage and married a year and a half later. We fought our way through the alternately starry-eyed and teary-eyed newlywed phase. Then the parenting phase, which never really ends.
We survived toddler potty-training, although, truth-be-told, I think my husband mostly checked in daily to see how it was going rather than actually participating in the process.
We somehow made it through three sets of the teen years. At one point, we had a toddler and two teens in the house at the same time. The tantrums of the teen years were offset by the charm of the toddler. The tantrums of toddlerhood were offset by the… Well, no. Not really.
And then, our kids became adults and we entered a whole new stage of parenting. Terror. The choices they debated would affect their careers, their spouse, their kids—our grandkids!
The house emptied. Life fell into a new routine. A new phase. Quiet when we wanted it. Grandchildren on Sunday afternoons. The house stayed relatively tidy throughout the week. I know. Remarkable, isn’t it?
But then, last October, the family room became something that more resembled a nursing home after my husband’s hunting accident. His world shrank to the size of the couch and the two or three agonizing steps to the commode. My lovely Shaker-style end tables turned into repositories for medications, plastic covered mugs with straws—the adult equivalent of a sippy cup—bandages, cold packs, hot packs, physical therapy instructions, and disability forms.
Crutches and a walker were our Thanksgiving decorations for that room. And Christmas decorations. Our holiday social schedule included blood draws, clinic appointments, and physical therapy. Our Christmas card photo was an Xray.
My to-do lists already read like an unabridged dictionary. How could I fit caregiving into the responsibilities of my job and writing deadlines?
The things we do for love.
As much as I love my husband, it would have been so easy to let resentment creep in because of the way his accident changed my life and routine, none of it for the better, that I could see. I couldn’t sleep, eat, work, or even breathe in the patterns I was used to. The deadlines didn’t stop, but the conditions in which I wrote were the opposite of the serenity and quiet times for concentration I knew I needed.
Resentment wanted to tell me some of my caregiving duties were disgusting. It tried. Every day, resentment knocked at the door. On my weakest days, I said, “Oh, come on in for a little while. But you’re not staying.” Four hours later, it was still there, fouling the air, even though my husband couldn’t hear us talking. He only knew about our visit because of the look on my face or the fact that I didn’t hide my sighs.
One evening, I hauled a basin of hot, soapy water and a washcloth to the coffee table in the family room. I tossed a towel over my shoulder and sat at the far end of the couch to wash my husband’s feet.
The things we do for love.
I squeezed the excess water from the washcloth and discovered a tenderness I’d suppressed. In that holy moment, I washed my husband’s feet as I imagine Jesus would have washed the feet of His disciples. Tenderly. Thoroughly. Lovingly. Not resenting the task but seeing it for the act of love God intended. A sacrifice? Yes. But one of the most powerful tools of communication Jesus used to tell the story of God’s grace.
Both my husband and I felt it. The atmosphere changed. I wonder if his path toward healing took a leap forward that evening because I chose to move at a Jesus pace and love with a Jesus kind of love.
Author’s note: If you’re like me, you love reading about what happened next, the screen shots we see at the end of a HGTV makeover. “Jack and Jillian received an offer for the asking price of their newly staged home,” or “The rescued Seaside Restaurant is still serving twice as many customers since the show first aired. The owner’s son is now in culinary school.”
Here’s another layer of my story. The impossible deadlines were met. Every one of them, by God’s grace. My recovering husband learned to sleep through the night so I could too. In fact, earlier than any of the doctors predicted, he was able to return to work, hobbling, but upright. In the books I wrote during that time period, tenderness in caregiving show up in some of the scenes, including in When the Morning Glory Blooms, which released April 1st from Abingdon Press.
The things we write for love.
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, nonfiction projects, speaking for women’s events, retreats, and writers’ events from a history of 33 years of on-air radio ministry. Her books have been recognized by RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Retailers’ Choice Award, and Carol Award nominations, among others, and a Family Fiction Readers Choice Award. Her newest release—When the Morning Glory Blooms—was given RT Reviews’ highest rating of 4.5 Stars and was named a Top Pick. You can connect with Cynthia through her website: www.cynthiaruchti.com or www.hopethatglowsinthedark.com, or through www.facebook.com/cynthiaruchtireaderpage or www.twitter.com/cynthiaruchti .