I stop in and say it’s just for a minute, but I know that it will be at least an hour. I gently try to shoo him out the door. The purpose is to give him some time to do something completely for himself. But any thought of solitude is so foreign that he smiles, and then comes and sits next to me. It seems he would rather spend the moments with me talking about everything, and nothing at all. I take the bowl of ice cream and insist that I do at least this much. He sighs and sits, and begins a story of his uncle from days gone by. His voice spins a tale that makes his eyes grow misty and long for days long ago when he was young and strong, and she was young too, with eyes that sparkle instead of stare blankly ahead.
He talks on telling me how the uncle chased the hired hand across the field with a gun, and we laugh. But even in the laugh, he keeps his eyes on her. She joins his laughter for a moment, and croaks out a raspy laugh herself. Then she drifts back just as quickly to that never-never land…unreachable…..unknowing that we are talking about her, now in front of her.
I help him for another moment, willing myself not to take over, efficient, quicker, stronger, but my hands work at a business pace. I see a job to carry out. He works slower, gentler, loving. He sees a girl he loved.
Together we ready her for sleep, and I wonder if she knows the difference of night and day. I whisper a prayer over her for rest, but that is selfishly more for him. I know that tonight, like all the others, he will be up and down, scared, worried, unable to lose himself in that deep restorative dream, for fear he won’t hear her raspy voice.
I leave, insisting that he let me come next time, and that he will leave and go do something. Take a drive, or a walk. He agrees with a smile, and we both know he will sit with me while I sit with her. I leave and go home.
I come in the door and see my love, in his chair. His face brightens when he sees me, and I lean down for a kiss.
“Will you love me when I’m old?” I ask. He smiles and assures me that he will even more than he does now. “And will I know you?”, but I only wonder, not brave to say the words. “And will you feed me chocolate ice cream?”, I think.
And I know that he will. His gentle ways will care for me if I cannot, as I will for him. Because love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. Love is doing, giving, selfless.
Who do you love? How do they know you do?