There he is, my hero. In front of the TV. Headphones on his head. Controller in his hands. As bug-eyed as a chihuahua at a fireworks extravaganza. And fighting for his life in an Xbox game called “Minecraft.”
I wish you could see him.
Believe or not, I gave him that Xbox. It was the least I could do. Last summer, when I twisted my ankle and spent six weeks in a boot and a wheelchair, Papa Mark (as our grandkids call him) took over all the chores _ cooking, cleaning, laundry and other things we usually shared.
He also became my personal valet. Brought me coffee in bed; served my lunch on a tray (I rolled to the table for dinner); and put me and my chariot into the car if we had to go out. He even pushed me out to the patio for sunsets and stargazing.
He learned to make a fried egg sandwich just the way I like it (fried egg, white bread, a lot of mayo, a little salt.) And I learned to eat them often.
Best of all, he did everything with good nature and cheer. Usually. There were moments, but never mind.
He was and is and will always be my hero. I tell him that often. Several times a day. He laughs, but I think he likes it.
No one in my adult life had ever done those things for me. I had never needed, wanted or accepted being taken care of. Perhaps you can relate. For those of us who pride ourselves on being strong (and we all know who we are) being needy is a hard lesson to learn.
Imagine my surprise, not just to learn it, but to like it. Not the wheelchair. Not the boot. Surely not the pain. But I truly liked feeling so cared for.
We should all feel that cared for once in a while. I liked it so much I decided to do it again.
Just after Thanksgiving _ three months after getting rid of the boot and the wheelchair _ I had surgery to repair my ankle. Many of you read about that and wrote to wish me well. I can’t thank you enough. I read your notes to Papa Mark and we smiled at them together.
Five weeks after surgery, I’m still in a boot and wheelchair, but hoping to be free soon. Once again, Papa Mark is being my hero. That’s why I gave him the Xbox. He needed a little fun, a little escape. From me.
But know this: If I yell loud enough for him to hear me over the headphones, he will drop that game and come running. If I’m hungry, he’ll whip up a fried egg sandwhich. If I need an outing, he’ll pack me up and off we’ll go. And if I just need him to be there, he will stay.
I’ve been married twice. My first marriage lasted 30 years, until the Coach, my children’s father, died with cancer. Two years later, my former editor confessed his affections and asked me to give him a chance. So I did. We’ve been married almost 12 years now.
Both times, my prerequisites for a husband were much the same: Love. Faith. Laughter. Character. A good person, a good husband, a good father … and a really good grandpa.
Both times, I was blessed to find those qualities and more. But I know things now I didn’t know then. I have requirements I didn’t know I required.
If you’re considering marriage, congratulations. You might first want to list your prerequisites, everything you’d ever want or need in a partner. Such as:
Will he/she push your wheelchair? Make your favorite sandwich? Drop anything (even “Minecraft”) if you call? Listen to what you’re saying, but know what you mean? And somehow manage to make you laugh when you feel like hiding under the porch with the dogs?
Finally, answer this: Are you willing, both of you, with no keeping score, to be whatever is required of you _ not just needed, but needy?
Giving or taking, either way, it’s a gift.
But combined as one, like the old song says? It’s a crazy little thing called love.