It was early in the morning and I was ready to leave for work. A travel mug full of black coffee in my left hand; car keys in my right.
Jennifer rolled down the hallway and asked, “Hey, Dan? Would you have time to help me go to the bathroom one more time before you leave?”
And so I stopped, set my coffee and keys on the floor next to my briefcase, and met her in the bathroom.
As we prepared to make the transfer from her power wheelchair, Jennifer looked up at me and asked, “Do you ever get tired of me always asking you to help me go to the bathroom and all the other stuff you do to help me?”
It certainly wasn’t the first time she’s asked me such a question, but this time I had a more descript response than my standard reply of, “Never. Do you ever get tired of all the stuff you do to help me?”
I then knelt down to get eye level with Jennifer and asked her if she remembered the time back in 2002, just after we just started dating, that I drove back to Iowa by myself for Thanksgiving. And so, there in the bathroom, I shared with Jennifer what had consumed my mind for that 18-hour roundtrip drive to Monticello, Iowa, and back to Mount Pleasant, Mich., some seven years ago.
Imagine that: A tender moment, in the bathroom.
I told Jennifer that for the entire trip I searched for answers to my questions of whether such a relationship could work between two people with MS. Was I going to be strong enough to care for her as well as for myself? Was she going to be strong enough to care for me as well as herself? I threw around the reality that she no longer could walk, and Lord knows how my disease was going to treat me in the future.
It was early enough in our relationship that I think we could have mutually agreed a marriage likely could prove to be more than either of us could handle and MS would force us to, “Just be friends.”
When I returned from Iowa, I had made my decision, and unless Jennifer felt otherwise, I wasn’t happy with just being friends.
Fast-forward to 2009, and it was at that moment, in the bathroom, that I fully realized I am living the answers to the questions and prayers I had contemplated on that trip to the Hawkeye State.
I told Jennifer, “On that trip to Iowa, this is what I prayed for: that one day I’d be so blessed as to have you as my wife and we both would be healthy enough that I would be the caregiver for you and you for me, and we didn’t let MS prevent us from being happy together. So no, Jennifer, I don’t mind at all. This is what I had prayed for.”
And I’m not going to lie: Saying this out loud to Jennifer kind of freaked me out because I felt a lot like I was quoting right from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You remember? When they spent their wedding night in that a drafty, creepy, leaky old house and Mary Bailey said to her husband, George, “Remember the night we broke the windows in this old house? This is what I wished for.”
It’s quite interesting how often real life imitates the movies.