It was three weeks into us dating. Maybe a month. The timeline is a little hazy here. But it also doesn’t matter. Let’s just say it was really early on into us dating. You came over to pick me up, and if I had to guess we were probably going to Cracker Barrel. You had never heard of it before meeting me and now you were officially hooked. If I had to guess, I’d say it was the cornbread.
You climbed the three flights of stairs up to my tree house apartment, that usual big ole smile on your face, but I was nowhere near ready. When I answered the door, you knew immediately that something was most definitely wrong. My hair was dripping wet, I was shivering with a fever, and I had just come down all at once with the kind of stomach flu that makes food poisoning look like a picnic in the park. With ribbons and May poles. And mom’s potato salad. Ugh, don’t talk about potato salad. Because this was the kind of sick where you don’t even think about potato salad. It was kind of like the first thirty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. If Private Ryan had the stomach flu.
To be honest, I fully expected you to run. It had only been three weeks after all. Maybe a month. The timeline is a little hazy here. But it also doesn’t matter. Because… you stayed. You picked up my great-grandma’s quilt, wrapped me up in it, and rocked me while I shivered. And you stayed. I kicked you out a few minutes later because I felt sick again and I didn’t want you to see me like that, but in that moment of choice….you stayed.
For five days I camped out on the bathroom floor. It was five of the worst days of my life. But looking back now, they were also five of the best. Because every single day, even though I wouldn’t let you in, you would come over and sit outside the door and talk to me. Bring me chicken soup and little containers of apple sauce. Which I never ate, so they piled up in the refrigerator like little calling cards as a reminder that you were there. And the day the color finally came back into my face and I was able to keep food down for the first time, I’ll never forget how relieved you looked.
So fifty or sixty years from now, when we’re sitting on our front porch swing and there’s silver in your hair and I still look fabulous for my age :), if you look at me and ask “When did you know?” I will look back on all the years that you’ve taken care of me since then, the thousands of cups of coffee that you’ve made even though you can’t stand the smell of it, the late night glasses of water and the bowls of oatmeal in bed, and I will pull my great-grandma’s quilt up around us, look at you and say “it was when you stayed.”
That was when.
Happy three years J. I will love you for a thousand more.