[Content Note: Hospitalization, Cancer, Religious and Political Homophobia]
... the husband who took me to Half Price Books the night before my surgery just in case they took my eReader away from me in ICU as a forbidden electronics device.
... the husband who was there when I woke after my surgery and who stayed by my side, almost without exception, as an anticipated 3-day hospital stay turned into a nightmarish 7-day hospital stay.
... the father who visited me and held my hand in ICU, despite the fact that an hour-long ride on bumpy roads couldn't have been comfortable for him after weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
... the mother whose first action on walking into the hospital was to fiercely advocate for better care than what I was currently receiving, and who wouldn't leave until I received it.
... the husband who woke once an hour to take me to the bathroom and "turn me" the night they took out my catheter and reduced my drugs such that I needed activity to prevent debilitating stiffness.
... the husband who was still cheerful and full of vibrancy even after days of irregular sleep on a hard, uncomfortable hospital cot in a room where "medicine time" meant lights on, no matter the hour.
... the husband who drove home as slowly as he could on the bumpy highway where the difference between 70 mph and 50 mph meant the difference between blood-curdling screams and zombie-moans.
... the mother who visited our house daily to check on the cats, despite the burden this increased on her while taking my father to his daily cancer treatments.
... the mother who also stocked our refrigerator and pantry with food so that my husband wouldn't have to immediately leave me to go shopping as soon as we got home.
... the husband who took vacation days off of work to care for me when his medical leave ran out because I was released from the hospital significantly later than expected.
... the husband who left late for work every day so that I could have my morning shower, with him there making sure I didn't slip, and reaching for me the areas I couldn't.
... the mother who came over in the mornings to give me my walk down the neighborhood block to keep my muscles exercised and to work out the stiffness of being unable to move in my sleep.
... the husband who listened patiently when every word out of my mouth was slow and slurred due to the heavy narcotics I was prescribed from the hospital.
... the husband who came dutifully with wet wipes in hand to wipe my bottom after yet another messy shit (for there are no other kind when on narcotics and laxatives) that I couldn't wipe for myself.
... the husband who left work for extended lunch breaks in order to ensure that I had something to eat for lunch and someone there to feed it to me.
... the father who spoke to me on the phone and kept my spirits up with the special kind of commiseration that only comes from being in the same place of terrible pain.
... the mother who lifted my spirits and repeatedly assured me that everything would once again be alright, even though she herself must have been just as terrified inside as I was.
... the husband who waited on me hand-and-foot, held me when I cried, gave me everything I could possibly ask for, and raised not a single complaint through several weeks of grueling service.
Love is all these things, and a million more than I've missed because to enumerate them all would take a year of examining everything in my life that I take for granted and realizing just how lucky I am.
This isn't the kind of love you'll see in Twilight because it's not young and vibrant and immortal and invulnerable and smexy; instead it's scary and painful and smelly and crusty. This isn't the kind of love you'll see in Narnia because it's not powerful and strong and regal and dignified; instead it's helpless and uncertain and demeaning and unconditionally giving with no expectation or desire for anything in return.
It's a love that millions of people on this planet share, and yet it's a love that many people are refused the right to acknowledge. Because my mother and I are cisgendered women and because my father and husband are cisgendered men and because we are all four blessed with white privilege and financial privilege and linguistic privilege, at no point during my hospital stay -- or, indeed, in our entire lives before or since -- was our love challenged or denied or defied. Our love is not a subject for debate, our love is not a political football to be bounced strategically about, our love is not railed against as somehow damaging society by its existence.
Our love is not metaphorically compared on mainstream national television to bestiality or pedophilia. Our love is not condemned from pulpits as an indescribable evil destined to send us all to eternal torment. At no point in my life were my parents challenged as suitable guardians for me because I might grow up to share their ideals, or to be the same sexual orientation as they, or because they might try to instill their beliefs in me. At no point in my marriage has the validity of our relationship been questioned based on how we choose to make love, or whether or not we are capable as a couple of procreation.
Love is unconditionally caring for someone, caring for them with such overwhelming kindness that I am struck even now, weeks after the fact, with tears in my eyes. I owe the greatest possible debt to my loved ones, but it's a debt they won't even allow me to acknowledge, because they don't even think they've done anything special or out of the ordinary: they did all this simply because they love me. What's so special about that?, they say with a smile and a shrug. And the answer is: everything.
I'm blessed and privileged that the love from my parents and my spouse has social approval and government sanction. And I hope to someday live in a world where that statement will also be true for the millions of QUILTBAG peoples on this earth who hold the same purity of love and who deserve the right to express it as me and my family do.