I’ve written about Denise being an excellent mother, and it is almost Mother’s Day. However, Denise is much more than a mother. I’ve also written here about Denise (and others) as great caregivers. She is much more than that too. But I wanted to take a minute to talk about Denise as a wife. There is no way I could give this topic justice unless I wrote many pages, which would quickly lose even the most loyal readers. So, I must write in a couple of snippets.
When cancer intrudes into someone’s life, it also encroaches into the lives of those who love the victim. Cancer not only robbed me of many dreams, but the dreams of Denise as well. How fair is that?
Thirty years ago, we were living in Marquette, Michigan, and we met a couple in their early 70s who were extremely fit. They would make great spokespersons for a vitamin company. They were thin and muscles toned. They had the tan of properly toasted toast. They were very active, participating in triathlons. Denise said to me then, “Let’s be like them at that age.” I agreed. It was my hope.
Denise has always been a better athlete than me. We met on a volleyball court in New York city 40 years ago, just before flying to the Middle East. Her athleticism was one of the first things that attracted me to her. In the best of days, when I was in my twenties, I could out run Denise. But even before I was sick, I was having a hard time keeping up with her in running and had no chance with biking. In recent years, I noticed that my strength was decreasing, despite having a vigorous exercise program. This became clear when Denise, our son Tyler, joined a group climbing Mount Baker. I was clearly the last to the top and back down. The same when I climbed Moutn Saint Helens a few years before that. However, a few years previous, I out hiked a group of twenty on a 65-mile trek through Nepal. I suspect my dwlinding strenght wasn’t my aging as much as it was the pre-cancer state starting to take a toil.
A few years ago, Denise entered the Kirkland triathlon. When I asked her about her times a few days later, she didn’t know. She had not looked at the finishes. I looked, and to my amazement, she had finished first in her age group. She wasn’t interested in the rankings in the least. If it had been me, I would have created a trophy room just to celebrate that finish, and I would place that trophy room at the front door, requiring all visitors to walk through it first. It would have been the highlight of my entire freakin life.
Now, my exercise potential is dismal, thanks to cancer and the effects of chemo. There is no reason that Denise couldn’t be like that couple in their 70s in Marquette (she is barely in her sixties) if it wasn’t for me holding her back. Denise still exercises on a regular basis, running to the top of Mount Erie at least once a week, while it is a great effort for me even to climb it by walking. I feel a lot of guilt about this. I have very little to offer these days. She could do better than me.
I really don’t think Denise would ever consider leaving me because of my poor health. But I did have a friend once whose wife was an Olympic athlete. He gave her great support, moving to Olympic training centers twice. But she called him from her final Olympics (he could not enter the Olympic village) to announce that she was divorcing him as his lack of being a world-class athlete was holding her back. Besides, she added, she had been having an affair with her trainer for years. He of course was devastated. I’m only mentioning this, because to some it does seem like Dense could do better than me. This is the attitude that I imagine among her hard-body senior friends or family. I say “imagined” because there is little evidence this is true. Maybe a better word is “feared.” But she would be the the first to say that leaving me isn’t on her radar. I’m grateful.
To look at another facet let’s consider some personality issues. I’m an emotional guy, writing and thinking about deeply personal and controversial issues without a second thought. Denise, far more private. But I also have thin skin. My honesty in sharing–some would say “over-sharing”–puts me in the crosshairs of people who like to attack others, when they see exposed chinks in their armor. I’m often in distress when someone feels obligated to criticse me, especially my relationship with God. She has put up with my ups and downs throughout the years.
She has supported me over the years in my writing. The books that have taking so much of my time, and money–paying professional editors money that I knew could never recoup in royalities–and she knows that. Yet, she has never tried to stop me from writing. But I will stop; The Stones of Yemen, will be my last.
The last of many facets of conflict, is that I’m a risk-taker, she is far more conservative. I had moved our family five times, across the world and country. Big moves. She would have been happy to have never left Minnesota, but she did and for my dreams. Even now, building a cottage is totally irrational to her, for me this ill to start such a project at this stage of our lives, doesn’t make sense. For me it is subsistence, a reason to get up in the morning–compelling exercise mentally and physically. But she allows it against all her better judgement.
So, to Denise, who certainly does deserves better than me, better than cancer, I love her for staying with me and being there through the thick and thin of real life.
6 responses to “Thoughts on a Wife, and a Cottage Update”
No doubt, my friend. You are a very very lucky man. But then again, Denise is a very lucky woman as well.
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Simply beautiful, Mike. I have wet eyes once again. With all your “issues,” you are one blessed (and damned lucky!!) man. Gayle Vyskocil ________________________________
💜💜no question Denise is a gem, and your love and commitment to each other is clear and beautiful 💗💗
That was beautiful, Mike. I think all wives could do better. I know mine could.
This is a beautiful tribute for your wife! I hope she had a sweet Mother’s Day! It seems like you both have hit it out of the park with each other for different reasons. Keep staying positive and fighting forward..