I think one of the greatest desensitizing genre is romance. I know women who pursue steady diets of romance movies and books. Think of how the idea of romantic love distorts our ideas of what love, what real love is. It turns us into narcissistic lovers (all about our own needs, feelings, and wants) rather than sacrificial lovers (pursuing the needs of our other). Okay, so my little excursus on romance got me thinking about what love means. Not that I have any particular answers, but it gives me something to blog about today.

As I type this, my wife has the flu. A particularly nasty variety of the flu that cycles pretty much like this (as heard by me downstairs): wife in bed, footfalls storm toward bathroom, hideous retching noises erupt, interminable silence, followed by weak footfalls and the gentle closing of the door. The only interruptions to the cycle is when the interminable silence is then followed by the sounds of the shower turning on.

So today I spend tending to my wife. Mostly that means that I watch the boys all day (which she always regrets since all we’ve been doing is re-enacting famous light saber battles from Star Wars while loading up on sugar. And let me tell you, there’s nothing sweeter from the mouth of a three year old than “play the Star Wars where Darth Vader gets burned up. I’m telling you, I’m dad of the year.) Occasionally I’ll stick my head in the death chamber that I used to call my bedroom and see if she needs anything.

This reminds me of two things: 1) the rule that my wife instituted about how she didn’t want me discussing her bodily functions since I have a way of sharing too much (but, come on, we’re all family here, right?); and 2) the night of our marriage that I truly realized that I must love my wife, an incident I refer to as the “Night of a Thousand Vomits.”

When my wife was pregnant with my first born, the heir to the Broaddus dynasty and the majestic empire that entails, she had two conditions. The first was gestational diabetes, which meant for nine months we had to go without sugar. Yes, that means chocolate and yes, I say “we”. The second was morning sickness. Now, I realize that most women experience morning sickness, however most women are over it by the end of the first trimester. We were now nearing the end of the second trimester. And it wasn’t just morning sickness. She experienced morning, noon, and evening sickness.

But hey, why let a little thing like your wife’s illness slow down your social schedule.

One night we had a bunch of friends over. A bunch of us were playing Magic: the Gathering, some were in the next room watching the movie Gladiator, and some were upstairs playing video games. Typical hang out time at the Broaddus’, since my wife and I had made a vow that we wouldn’t be one of “those” married couples who quit hanging out with their single friends. At 9 o’clock, my wife bade everyone goodnight and went upstairs, since she wasn’t her usual night owl self during pregnancy. We all continued merrily.

About an hour later, we hear this frantic scrambling from upstairs. Storming footsteps running in one direction, then another, then doors opening and closing. The entire time of what sounded like some sort of mugging, these horrific sounds emanated from upstairs. This soul wrenching spasms, the sounds of every meal ever ingested being brought up in some sort of violent thrashing. Those of us playing Magic paused until the struggle subsided, then everyone looked at me. I shrugged (I also happened to be winning. Again. Memo to Mr. Fancy Pants Horror Writer Brian Keene). Suddenly we hear this weak voice calling from upstairs. “Maurice, can you come here for a minute?”

Now, you have to understand. My wife is a strong woman. A down ass chick. For real. There was one time, again while she was pregnant, the two of us and some friends were coming in from a night at the movies. These two dudes start walking up on us yelling. I tell everyone to get inside, and I go to see what their problem is. I barely get halfway toward the dude when I hear this fast-paced waddling behind me. I turn around, there she is. “What are you doing?” I ask. “Thought you could use some back up,” she said. The men apologized for yelling and moved on. This is the woman I am married to. The figure that greeted me at the top of the stairs, however, was some weary shadow of her. Bags under her red eyes, with vomit in her hair. “I didn’t make it to the toilet” was all she could say and that may go down at the greatest understatement she has ever uttered in our now-going-on-six-years marriage. I don’t know if I can, or want to, describe to you the horror of our bedroom and I write this stuff professionally. Now, I’m no CSI or anything, but my best imagined recreation went something like this: a wave of sickness must have overtaken her while she was still asleep. Feeling a second wave hitting her, she made a run for the trash can in our room. By the third wave, she made it to the trash can, but obviously she took shot making lessons from Shaquille O’Neal. The fourth and fifth waves found her chancing a run to the bathroom. Everything else involved her spending time in worship at the ceramic temple.

“It’s okay, honey. You go shower, I’ll take care of this.” I went downstairs and retrieved a mop, bucket, every rag, sponge, and cleanser at our disposal and gave a “you don’t want to know” wave to my fellow Magic players. Our friends playing videogames wisely had turned up the volume and opted to huddle around the television until the all clear was given. And I began to clean. For forty minutes, I scrubbed and hauled out linens. When I was done, you couldn’t tell anything had gone on. As I stood there, latex gloves on, sweating, holding a nasty looking mop and a bucket of grey water, I had an epiphany. It suddenly occurred to me that I must really love this woman. I mean REALLY love her. Not the romantic, riding in on a white horse I make your heart go all a-flutter kind of love (because, you can imagine I must’ve done that so well to begin with), but the deep we’re-in-this-for-better-or-worse kind of love. It had truly never hit me before then.

Okay, I’ve managed to turn a potentially beautiful lesson in what it means to love into another “boy is Maurice cool” blog. Then again, that might have been spoiled by all of that vomit talk. Either way, history is written by the victors. Bite me.

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