Today, I spotted a couple at the train station. They were elderly, and moving slowly. As I walked up the stairs behind them, I noticed the gentleman carefully grasping his wife’s arm, so she wouldn’t trip. Then he asked, “Are you tired, sweetheart? We can rest here.”
I was so touched by this show of tenderness. It made me feel a little wistful, too-I’d like my relationship to be just as tender. Often, though, mine is filled with tension. My husband and I love each other deeply, yet there are so many details to tend to about caring for our son (he has cerebral palsy) that they can form a dark cloud hanging over our lives.
In any given week, my husband and I might go back and forth about stuff like who’s driving our son to speech therapy, who’s programming his iPad with new words (we recently got him a speech app), who’s taking him to the annual appointment with the developmental pediatrician since we both can’t take off from work, who’s picking up the prescription for his anti-seizure meds, who’s going to deal with the insurance company’s latest denial of payments for therapies, how can we get him to eat more (he’s a skinny kid), yada, yada, yada.
There have been times when the stress and fatigue have been so great I have snapped at my husband for no good reason. There have been times when my my husband’s I’ll-let-you-handle-it ‘tude have made me so mad I could have cheerfully whacked him. There have been times when I’ve looked at our wedding pictures and wondered what happened to that happy couple.
And yet: we still adore each other, plan date nights, respect each other’s strengths. I am the researcher and the booker of appointments, and he is Silly Doting Daddy who can get our son giggling with his crazy noises, funny games and fart talents. We compensate for each other’s weaknesses; my husband soothes me when my fears get the best of me, I point out when he’s in denial. We can make each other laugh, even when things get totally insane. And we have together experienced moments of amazing euphoria with our son, bursts of bliss only parents of a child with special needs could experience. Like when our son took his first few steps, the steps doctors told us he might never take. Or when he basically does anything for the first time.
I do not think our marriage is stronger from raising a child with special needs. Nor do I think it’s weaker. What I know is that our marriage is solid. It’s been through the worst of times, it’s survived, and while it may not be perfect it is still really good. My husband and I are tougher together. We are better for our son together. And, ultimately, we are happier together.