what love looks like now

I had just thrown up when the doorbell rang. I wiped my mouth clean and pulled the door open to let February chill rush inside.

“Laura?” asked the stranger. “Have a good day.”

He handed me a hulking bouquet, plastic wrapped against the wind.

“Ooo, Mama!” chirped the small boy at my knees. “Those are beautiful! Let’s open them!”

Roses red as blood spilled their scent across the kitchen as I unwound the plastic bags, my pregnant belly pressed against the counter. I read the typed card on the tall plastic fork and it made me laugh, private jokes still funny after years and years.

This is what love looks like now.

. . .

A decade of marriage has slipped behind us, only a fifth of the beads on a rosary chain. A small handful of mysteries. At turns joyful, sorrowful, glorious, luminous.

We know each other better than we know anyone else on this rocky planet. The deep body knowing that comes from years of sharing sheets and silverware and the same strange sense of humor.

We’ve built a marriage, home, family, careers. He helped me birth five babies into this world. We helped each other bury two.

I think back to the girl I was when I first fell in love with him, and I thank the wise and bemused God who watches countless college students make millions of bad decisions on thousands of beer-sticky barroom floors that I made one good one that night.

That even as Neil Diamond crooned “Sweet Caroline” while a hazy drunken crowd sang-screamed at the tuneless top of its lungs, I could see the one who stood out from the rest.

Love with him was nothing like I knew before. It still isn’t. He remains a mystery to me in the best sense of the word: a depth without bottom, a complexity I can’t nail down, a conversation that continues, a question I keep returning to wonder.

This is a truth that “lucky” or “blessed” or “grateful” cannot capture.

A conviction of deepest bone knowing that life would be drastically, dramatically different without him.

. . .

This is what love looks like now.

Love means unremarkable pebbles of small sacrifices. Love takes his car to change the oil. Love makes school lunches when she’s too sick to touch lunch meat. Love folds the t-shirts the way he likes. Love pauses before texting the complaint. Love offers to drive when she’s tired. Love goes back downstairs to clean the kitchen.

Love means carrying the day’s stones to and fro – carpools, errands, laundry, lunches, dishes, groceries, bedtimes – again and again and again. Routines winding their weaving way around two people, shaping a shared life.

Love means sitting together with our backs against the biggest boulder, the grief we cannot move. Learning that every marriage holds hardness hidden within it, the suffering and sorrow that no one would have chosen.

Turns out the only choice we had was each other.

. . .

Marriage may be the most everyday of sacraments, love’s grooves worn into the heart by thousands of ordinary days. Breakfasts and walks and fights and Saturday errands and no one ever wants to wash the muddy dog, but you take turns anyway.

After surprises and splurges and butterflies of excitement slip away, you settle into the comfortable space where you can watch another’s heart and body change and embrace the softening of both.

Because pink cards on the mantle and red roses on the table are not where love is found. But in the pebbles, the stones, the boulders. What we’re given and what we choose to carry and who shares the weight with us.

Love is a growing wisdom. From a thousand fleeting unspoken passing moments when we see each other for the gift we are.

. . .

Maybe it makes sense that love’s holiday falls smack in the middle of February, the longest shortest month.

January’s glitter and glow have faded. Winter drags on, grey grimy snow melting along the roadside. Ordinary, unremarkable, easy not to notice.

If you learn to love through Februarys, you love well.

For us it means mourning our daughters who died a year ago this month. Right now it means the middle of another pregnancy, a hard one tinged with worry, stripped of innocence. Trust and grief become everyday practices.

But this is what love looks like right now.

We can only be here. We can only learn how to love where we are.

5 thoughts on “what love looks like now

  1. Praying for your family! February is an anniversary for us too. We buried a 5-month old son 32 years ago. The pain lessens some but the holes in our hearts are still there and it still seems like yesterday. God bless you and your family!

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