I returned to the critical care waiting room on the neurosurgery floor and saw, through the glass, my mother-in-law’s smile and thumbs-up. My heart flooded with relief as a smile broke across my face. I knew my husband had survived his second brain surgery in four years.
In that moment, I did not think of our starkly different personalities or the fact that my love language is quality time and his love language is hunting. Really, I didn’t think of anything but the fact that I love my man.
In that moment, he could do no wrong.
Two days later, I was so grateful that his severe post-craniotomy headaches had eased, and his appetite returned, that I offered to get him cold-pressed juice, omelets . . . coffee. He teased me and said I would flip the breaker to the whole hospital just to dim the lights in his room, or I would pay $3,000 and walk through snow to purchase the fizzy drink he craved. It was true (well, maybe not the snow part). I would have done anything for my husband because the trial of brain surgery had blurred everything but love.
The day after we returned home, however, my vision returned to normal.
My husband is a minimalist except when it comes to undershirts and camouflage. He likes smooth surfaces and clean, white lines. I like color and texture and plants.
This morning, I ate breakfast and left the plate on the table. The leftover yolk would have congealed, but my husband was so kind and rinsed it off. At lunch, I ate a salad and left the container on the counter. I also left a wet diaper on the living room floor, which I forgot to take back to the diaper genie in the nursery.
My husband commented on these things, and I snapped out the fitted sheet and began folding it (which you probably shouldn’t do if you’re already frustrated). I snapped out the pillowcases. I began folding towels. And then I took off, cleaning baseboards and wiping down walls. If he wanted a clean house, by George, he was going to get it.
My husband, in his recliner while recovering from brain surgery, started laughing.
“Can’t there be a balance?” he said.
But he knew the answer to his own question. Part of the reason he married me is because I am an all or nothing kind of gal. Part of the reason I married him is because he is an all or nothing kind of man. When we’re all in, even the harshest of trials cannot stop us. And here we were, getting annoyed with each other because we had different ways of keeping house.
Marriages are often formed between starkly different personalities because we’re drawn to strengths that offset the places where we’re weak. But over time, those stark differences can clash instead of complement, and you find yourself wondering if the one who swept you off your feet really wishes he would have dropped you.
But then, when we focus on love, every perceived “fault” or difference blurs. Did I care about our differences when I saw my mother-in-law’s thumbs-up through the waiting room window? No. Did I wish he liked my red gingham tablecloth instead of surreptitiously stuffing it into the storage cupboard? No.
In that moment, all I cared about was him: my dryly funny man, who drives me up the (very clean) wall and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.
Let’s focus on love, my friends. Love is the greatest commandment because, when we focus on it, every surface fault blurs.
Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, “an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down,” and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina’s non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, Today’s Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s next novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.