Recently while going through storage I came upon some old cassette tapes marked "Roy D. Mattson, Personal Refections". How I came by them I have no clue, but they turned out to be tapes my grandfather made after being diagnostic with advanced stage prostate cancer, the disease that eventually claimed his life. My mom and I sat down and listened to the tapes the last time she stayed with us. The first few were up beat and positive. "As I sit here", my grandfather begins, "I don't feel like there is a thing wrong with me. If I had a little music I'd get up and dance the lindy!" Two or three entries continue in this positive tone, with my grandfather saying how good he feels, how he knows he can beat the cancer.
Then we came to an entry that was immediately different. His voice sounds tired and frail. We didn't get more than a minute into the tapes before my mother started to cry. It was the first entry he made after he broke his hip, and this, my mother said, was his realization that he really wouldn't make it beyond the cancer, that it was, as the doctors had told him from the beginning, terminal.
She told me the story of what happened that day. He had been filling up his SUV with gas, and when he swung himself up into the driver's seat his hip cracked. That was how severely the cancer had weakened his bones. And what did my grandfather do? He drove, not to the hospital, but home. He had my mom help him get dressed up in his best suit and drive him and my grandmother down to the lake for a photo shoot they had already planned. When my mother, the physical therapist, protested, he said to her he wanted "one more picture with his glamor girl". Only then would he go to the hospital.
I have that photo. From the huge smiles and the stylish clothes (both my grandparents were fashionistas in their day) you would never suspect the pain, both emotional and physical that must have underlaid that photo. All you can see is the love.
Today is Chris and my eighth anniversary. And when I think about what I want for our relationship, it is that photo. I want a love that is strong enough to transcend the aches and pains of everyday life, so that all that shines out is the love. No marriage, no life is without pain and struggle. My grandparent's marriage wasn't necessarily a model union. But, in the end, they loved each other, and that love was strong enough to carry them through the hardest times in their lives.
Chris, I love you, more than I can clumsily express. We have been through a lot, and after each and every struggle I love you more. I cherish each day with you, because I am continually reminded how brief and fleeting life can be. Eight years with you has been a treasure, and I am so lucky to have the life and family I have. Here's to tomorrow, today, and the next eight years.
All my love,