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  • Thomas Ward

In Sickness...



We got married 22 years ago. I was 20 years old. We went to a college jokingly referred to as “the marriage factory.” I heard that there were some young women who would book the campus wedding chapel before they’d even met their husband. I’m sure that was a legend. I certainly hope it was. We grew up in a religion that taught no sex until marriage so it makes a lot of sense that the rubes who were actually following that directive would want to get married right away. Many of those marriages haven’t lasted. Ours has. I don’t know why exactly. We love each other and still like each other and still laugh at each others’ jokes. My father was the minister who married us. His birthday is tomorrow. He died in 2006 and I miss him a lot. I don’t remember the exact phrasing of our vows but I’m pretty sure the standard “in sickness and in health” was in there. That vow has been put to the test, and not just by Sherry’s degenerative neuromuscular disease that can’t seem to settle on a diagnosis. All we know is that she has something, it’s getting worse, and there’s no cure. It could be SPS (Stiff Person Syndrome), PLS (primary lateral sclerosis, sibling to ALS), or the newest diagnosis from our newest neurologist: Limbic Encephalitis. We’re just reading about this one and it’s not fun. I’ve tested that vow as well with my own special sickness between my ears. She’s stood by me through diagnoses and anti-depressants and behavioral health centers and therapists and twelve steps and mindfulness and Nutri-system.

Now, when we said “in sickness and in health” I was picturing a severe head cold. I can stand by you as you suffer through a severe head cold. I’ll even make soup. I also framed that vow in terms of growing old together. I was twenty. She was twenty-three. I was picturing my grandparents in their 80’s. I’m about to turn forty-three. It’s not time to be this kind of sick. I didn’t think it was time, but I don’t get to decide. None of us do.

I don’t have a good ending for this. I started writing it with the intention of it kicking off another blog that will fizzle out eventually if I'm anything near consistent. It should be tied up in some way. A callback to something in the first paragraph or something. I thought about writing new vows, or “real” vows, or funny vows. It’s a pointless exercise, but I sometimes wonder what the twenty year old me would say if he was told that at forty-three you're going to have to start watching her deteriorate in a unique and painful way. You’re going to feel like it’s happening to you and you’re going to feel guilty about that. You’re going to feel things that you don’t have a vocabulary for.

I believe that the twenty-year-old me would have asked, "Do I still get to have sex for crying out loud?!" Sure. Okay, then.

The answer would have been yes. The answer is yes.

(Hey look, it worked. End on a callback.)