For years he has chased me, up the stairs, swatting my backside. “Brittle bones!”, I yell, while laughing. “Brittle bones and scar tissue!” The scar tissue is a reference to my youth full of spankings. Many of which I forced myself to laugh through, and not cry, my own cackling rebellion. It doesn’t hurt, not really, his playful smackings. But still, I yell it, and we collapse with laughter.
Only, sometimes, things don’t feel as funny. Sometimes there is a sting with loving.
I love this man. I have born his five children. I still notice the way that he walks into a room. Confidently, he strides, long legs and arms sure, and claiming. I know what he likes and doesn’t, and I try, don’t laugh, to be accommodating.
But sometimes, life happens and gets in the way. No, that’s not really true. Sometimes, life happens, and I put things in the way. I clutter the spaces between us, like they were my teenaged room. Throwing things from my ammunition closet, over my shoulder, not really even looking at him. They land, they always land, so heavily.
Mismatched messes of my selfish desires lay strewn at his feet. They lie, tangled with my pride, and unforgivenesses that I thought I had long ago put away. Usually, he does the same.
Sometimes one of us can stay totally calm, and love the other enough to be the lighthouse for them. Shining brightly, illuminating their way back home, safely, no matter how choppy the waves of their self-darkened waters. I swear, in those moments, our love is a thing, like the Grinch, its heart swelling too big to fit in just one chest.
In marriage, it seems, there is always so much back and forthing. Sometimes I think that my wedding registry should have included Dramamine.
Eventually, the sun makes its way, shining impossibly through all our darkness. We find ourselves bruised, like too-ripe fruit. And still scramble, to reach out, and start, again.
This business of loving can be so hard. Sure, the falling was easy, but sometimes the getting back up is tough. I have so many reasons to stay and not leave. So much more to be grateful than angry for. I know this. I know that the brightness of days in my marriage shine twice as long as even the darkest night. I hear it, I feel it, and believe me, I’ve seen it. It’s just that sometimes, I feel more brittle than strong. Sometimes apologies don’t come. Sometimes anger races on lithe, strong legs, zipping past forgiveness as it staggers along.
But it does come, doesn’t it? Forgiveness, I mean. It knocks at the door, where we have said the meanest of things. It waits, patiently, to be let in. Its hands never nervously wringing, but they aren’t empty either. Forgiveness it seems, always brings their friends. Hope and Grace, always seem to come right on in, silently emptying our scared what-ifs from the halls. Airing out our home, like sacred spring cleaning, until we ourselves are reborn.
So maybe that’s how love really is. Maybe it is newly born on Wednesday, small deaths on Saturday, and resurrection on Tuesday. Maybe love is more shatter proof than I thought all along. Maybe love takes brittle bones and makes them strong.