The One Necessary Trait
“What is the one trait necessary to maintain a relationship?”
I was asked this question in hopes I would come up with an answer. I was married to the same man for thirty-eight years. And I am going to tell you something that will make me blush. We were both virgins when we married. Not only that, we remained faithful to our vows. It was not romantic love that drew this partner to me; it was karma, destiny, fate.
But it had no happy ending, not at all. I married him only to discover that our young daughter was destined to die of cancer at the age of seven. He died of it himself when he was only sixty-three. I was the weak one in the family, which just goes to show you that reason has no say in the court of love. As he told it, he saw me running down the stairs of our elementary school wearing a red skirt and a white blouse. I was only eight years old, but he saw me as an angel. He always called me that when he was feeling romantic. Being an engineer, though, he was not the greatest speller. I remember one birthday cake that read, “Happy Birthday, Angle.”
Although I wrote one-liners for Joan Rivers, he never laughed at my jokes. He was proud, though. He bragged on me knowing someone famous. Later, I added Phyllis Diller, Jeff Foxworthy and Jay Leno to my “sold to” file, but I hung up my shingle writing comedy some time ago. I really didn’t know I was an essayist until Bob was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I said to him, “I am going to start a website to support you.” Someone else had done this and I knew I wanted to do one for him.
I had no idea how to build web pages but I taught myself slowly and surely during the first part of his cancer. I soon realized the satisfaction I got from stringing words together to tell our story. He seldom read any of the copy—he was living it—and I was strengthening myself for the inevitable day of his death. And come it did. Five days before Christmas of 2004, this valiant man took his last breath. I was not even with him. Our son and I were at home resting. We knew it was a matter of days before he died and we were letting go on many levels, as was Bob.
My sister had driven nonstop from Pennsylvania to be with us. She sat with him that long last day. As she told it, “The French doors to his hospital room blew open and a single leaf blew in, as if the spirit had come to get him.”
He was buried during a sleet storm two days before Christmas. Few people made it to the funeral due to the weather and the fact that everyone was busy. I stood beside his casket touching the only life-like part of his body, the hairs on his hand. “Easy,” my son whispered, fearing I would mess something up.
This is a long way to answer the question of what one necessary trait is important to maintain a relationship. That is a no-brainer. Commitment. And commitment grows into love. And love flowers in the face of death. He is the one I want to meet me when I cross over. I guaran-damn-tee you that he will still call me Angel. And I him.
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