I used to go to church many years ago. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of my memories are negative. But I remember one older gentleman. I believe his name was Dan. He came every Sunday with his wife who was suffering from some form of dementia.
I’m probably getting the diagnosis wrong. But I remember her because despite being in her sixties or seventies at the time, she had the emotional intelligence of an eight-year-old.
There, too, I’m probably getting the diagnosis wrong. It wasn’t that her emotions were childish, but rather her character had become disrupted. She’d run up to you and poke you and laugh, or wave at you from across the room like a child who gets up in the middle pew at a wedding and catches someone’s eye in the back.
I remember one morning she would wave and say “Hiiiiii!” Without much regard or understanding of the environment she was in.
None of this was her fault, of course. The disease was doing things to her mind and brain that are hard to fathom. And, twenty years later, I’m guessing they have both passed on.
But I remember them both, because Dan was always by her side. A deeply faithful man to God, his church, and his wife, he never got upset with her. He never treated her like a child, never raised his voice, and never seemed to think anything less of her than the memory he most certainly had from earlier in their marriage. At most he’d quietly put his hand on hers or put his arm around her to subtly keep her still.
I have no idea how long they were married, but if you told me 30 or 40 years I wouldn’t hesitate to believe it.
David Brooks has this notion of “maximum marriage”. The idea you’re supposed to give yourself fully to your partner. To go “all-in” with them on every facet of their life and in your partnership.
I’m reminded of that thinking about Dan. The way he cared for his wife is nothing short of breathtaking, but also completely believable. Of course he took care of her. What else was he supposed to do? In his mind I’m sure the notion of anything less was no more a thought than the weather six years from now.