When A.J. and I had only been married for about a year, he went to work in California for about six weeks. In our 28 years of marriage, that was the most we have ever been separated and it was quite a trial for both of us. I lost 20 pounds and he lost 30 (okay, so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing). At any rate, it was tough. I remember telling my mom that I was surprised by the little things that I missed… his habit of patting me on my head whenever we were watching TV together and he’d get up to go to the kitchen for something, his singing in the shower, and even his teasing me about my driving.
This has been an exceptionally difficult week for me. While P.J. still has a very long and rough road ahead of him with his recovery, it was time for me to return to work. I am very blessed that I have an understanding boss who is willing to allow me to get hours in whenever I can and I am thankful that some of my work can be done remotely, but this week, I was needed in the office, so A.J. spent the week at the hospital with P.J. and Joshua and I stayed in Braithwaite. The goodbyes on Monday morning were hard. When A.J. drove away, I cried. I was sad because I knew it would be rough without him and I felt terribly guilty that I wouldn’t be with P.J. this week. I didn’t want my child to wake up and not see me, and think I had abandoned him when he needed me the most.
Thanks to the help of my good friend, Nell, who has been doing housework for us and picking up Joshua from school, I managed to work a full week, but it reminded me of those six weeks back in 1984. As is typical in most marriages, we tend to take each other for granted. A.J.’s morning routine became mine… walking the dog, getting Josh up and ready for school, making his lunch, loading the car, dropping him off. Little things frustrated me, like when I was walking Molly and the neighbor’s dog was loose and caused her to halfway drag me down the block. I ran behind her and cried (yes, I really did… been doing a lot of that lately) and begged her to please hurry and tinkle so I could get to work at a reasonable time. Every step of the way, I was thanking God that I am not a single mom and that A.J. would eventually be coming home.
This week gave me a lot of time to reflect on how much of a servant my husband is to me and to our children. I had experienced this on a different level this past October when I had ankle surgery, but I must admit I was a bit distracted with my own pain and frustration during my recovery and didn’t fully grasp the level of his sacrifice. But this time, I see it. I see the commitment and dedication, and I see how he puts the needs of his family ahead of his own.
Nell, who cared for her sweet husband James for 14 years following his stroke, shared with me the other night that A.J. had once told her how much he respected her and how he could never be a caregiver. Isn’t that ironic when that’s exactly what he is… a caregiver? One of the things I have always admired about A.J. is his love for his children — all of them — and so I know how terribly difficult this tragedy has been for him; yet he has been the sane one, the strong one, the stable one. He has been here for P.J., has reassured Josh, and has comforted me and helped me get through these past 24 days without losing my mind. He has helped us all focus on God and keep our faith.
This morning, when I walked into P.J.’s room for the first time in 5 days, he grabbed my gloved hand and kissed it. His healing is evident. Each day shows us a new miracle. In writing this series, my desire is to share those miracles with you, but to also give you some insight as to the overall journey we are all taking together. This journey would be so much harder if we didn’t have A.J. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “God is my copilot.” It made me smile, but I thought to myself, “A.J. is my copilot… God is our GPS.”
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