Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle’. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now. -Mr. Rogers
When my boyfriend texted me last week to tell me that he felt a “vicious” man-cold coming on, I thought, oh good god—here we go again. The sad grey sweat getups, the lethargic responses to any and all questions asked, the air of quiet desperation as he sniffles his way through boxes of tissues. A fairly tough, athletic guy who takes decent care of himself, he kind of melts into a puddle when faced with some congestion and a scratchy throat. “I’m shutting it down,” he’ll say to me when he feels a cold approaching—and that he does. He puts his hat on or his hood up, drinks a lot of fluid, and sinks into the couch for the remainder of the battle. No grocery shopping, no errands, no favors, no dinners. Sometimes no return-texts or family functions.
And it’s all a little much for me.
I’m not exactly what you’d call “maternal.” While I love working with kids and I feel fiercely protective of those I love, I’m much more likely to show that love with a little elbow or a punch in the arm rather than a warm, gooey hug. Think Elaine from Seinfeld (unfortunately, complete with her rockin’ dance moves). Which is not to say that I’m not a good girlfriend—I believe I am. I can be thoughtful and patient and compassionate. I try to listen and put myself in his shoes, and consider what Mr. Rogers would tell me to do.
But not when he’s sick. When he’s sick, I lose all capacity for that “beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood” kind of mentality. When it comes to illness, I’m just not a coddler. I’m more of a “grin-and-bear-it”er. And so, when my boyfriend first got sick, I gave him my usual level of support: I tossed him a bottle of Vitamin C and asked him to pass the remote. Continue reading