I wrote this in 2002 after two spinal surgeries kept me in bed at home for months. I called this piece “Love” then — and I still do.
I learned that there is a complex relationship between the caregiver and the care-receiver, the carer and the caree — if you like. I felt it was humiliating to be so needy — to require care. But Mary acted only out of love and a desire to ease my suffering. I loved her back and let her help. I don’t mean to paint some sort of idealized picture of perfect harmony between the carer and caree. There were prickly moments when I had had enough of a crippled existence and snarled at my carer, she was always there to be snarled at, but would not be put off by my bad temper.
During those years of love-based caregiver/care-receiver relationship, in an intimacy devoid of everyday distractions, we built a marriage. I learned to rely on love. Maybe I should take a shot at rewriting 1 Corinthians 13 and and add to all the “Love is . . .” statements that love is reliable. When institutions and acquaintances fail, when art and artifice disappoint — love is reliable.
We rely on one another’s love now in different ways. We respect and support one another in what we do as individuals and as a couple. There is space but not indifference. There is trust. We do not always agree but we always make ourselves agreeable. One day we sit at the same table to eat and read our different books and say little. Another day we sit at the same table to eat and put the books aside and talk of important things for hours. And we know, from experience, that whatever the future holds, we will manage quite well — because love is reliable.