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True Love Is Not Sexy

The tenderness between a son and his dying father is not something one is always privileged to witness.

It’s not something I thought I’d see anytime soon. My father-in-law was only 60 when he died on January 21, 2013.

We found out, or rather it was confirmed, that my father-in-law was very sick with stage four liver cancer which had spread to his lungs, a few days after Christmas. Just a few days after that, my husband’s grandmother, his father’s mother, fell and broke her hip. I watched, helplessly, as my husband went into overdrive, an only son, tending to his father and grandmother; calling doctors and having hope. My husband was fueled by adrenaline as he visited two different hospitals, in two different boroughs, almost everyday for a couple of weeks until his father was finally transferred to Mt. Sinai, the same hospital his grandmother was in.

The hope was that my husband’s grandmother, whom I call Miss Young, would get to see her dying son, one last time. Sadly, she never did. Miss Young is 81 and never thought she would have to attend the funeral of her only child.

The day before my father-in-law’s funeral, Miss Young came home from the hospital. Actually, she came to our home. In the chaos that was the month of late December into most of January, the fact that Miss Young would live with us, was the silver lining to the sadness of my husband losing his father.

 My husband has wanted his grandmother, who helped raise him, to live with us for quite some time. However, being as fiercely independent as she is, Miss Young would never hear of it. She came without a fight though, as she knew that she would need a lot of help in her recovery from hip surgery. She believes she will return to her apartment once again. I can’t say whether she will or won’t. If it were up to my husband, Miss Young would stay with us.

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The sadness I felt over the death of my father-in-law was not for me. The sadness I felt was for my husband, my children, my mother-in-law, and for Miss Young. The loss, is truly their loss. My tears at the funeral, were tears for the lost future between a grandfather and his grandchildren, between a father and his son. My children won’t ever get to experience a Yankees game with their Pop Pop. Something I know Pop Pop looked forward to doing one day. I know he loved my children but their time together was too short. Now, I will just have to have faith that he will somehow, through the cosmos, know how his grandchildren are doing.

I’ve made many observations during this time of change in my household. Watching my husband, while he was in the midst of so much caretaking, I was amazed. I have much to learn, still, from my husband’s example. Not once did my husband complain about having to go back and forth from one hospital to the next. It’s not in his nature to complain, but the level of grace that my husband exuded during this difficult time was above and beyond, truly inspiring.

Like any relationship, the relationship between my husband and his father, was not always perfect. But one would have never known that watching my husband as he cared for his father in his last days. My husband has always been a more forgiving person when it comes to the imperfection of relationships. This is one of the ways I need to learn from his example.

Another observation I made during all of this, is about true love. True love is not sexy – at all. This is something that theoretically we all should know. But, in practice, I find it is rarely focused upon. What with our societal obsession with the young and beautiful, we don’t usually stop to think about how not sexy true love is. (Suggestion to those looking for a life partner – ask yourself, after the sexy wears off, will this person still have your back?) True love is not about the push-up bra and stiletto heels, nor the six pack abs and heart melting smile. True love is about changing your grandmother-in-law’s bed sore wounds. True love is about massaging your dying father’s swollen feet to try and give him just an ounce of relief from his cancer-stricken body. True love is driving back and forth, everyday, to different hospitals without a complaint. True love is all of these things and many, many more.

True love is something I have been blessed to have found in this lifetime. Something I don’t take lightly, as an adopted person. As much as I like to joke that I deserve an award for being married to my husband, I know it is really my husband that oft times deserves the award. For his example, I am ever grateful.

Look, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wear your stiletto heels, or try and keep up the six pack abs. Do it, do whatever makes you feel good. But do it for yourself because when true love needs to kick into gear, it rarely involves five-inch heels or sit-ups.

Rest in Peace, Aston Young, Jr.. You are missed.

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