For the last eleven years, I have been the partner of a man who has been on a journey, or a mission so to speak. Four years ago our life path was thrown for a loop with these three words, “You have M.S.” Our minds were wracked with the following questions: What did that mean? What did that mean for him, for his daily life, for our marriage, for the future?
Perhaps I shall back up a bit to provide more story elements that frame the picture properly:
We met in 2003 whilst waiting for an area recital at Portland State University. I was scribbling in my notebook, writing about, “life,” and my emotions as a nineteen year old freshman in the music department.
He sauntered in with a gray sweater, shining blue eyes, a mop of short but wavy brown hair and a flashy smile.
I was hit.
I was hit with the thought, “Woah, wait a minute, who is that and how did I miss him earlier in the term?”
It was January, the first Monday back at school from winter break, 4:30pm before the dreaded gathering of all voice majors in the department to, “support,” (insert eye roll here….) one another and perform for our peers. We all paraded through Lincoln 75’s doorways and settled into the drab grab chairs and waited to hear who would perform that afternoon.
Sure enough, HE jumps up, and without prior rehearsal, announces, “I’ll sing, might as well get it out of the way!” which was followed by a barrel of a laugh and a wide toothy grin.
I’ll always remember him that way, standing up in front of the performance hall and filling the room with the sounds of resonating song.
Perhaps I’ll write more about how the love affair began after that day, but at a later time.
Cut towards years later…
Sitting on the floor of our apartment, I was surrounded by boxes, and knee deep in newspaper when the phone rang, and my heart jumped. I answered and Andy was on the other end of the line and he choked out, ”They called me back. The optical neurologist,”
“OK,” I reply as steadily as I could force my voice to proceed. “And what’d she say?”
“She said they found spots on the MRI, I have optical neuritis and the spots indicate, one of two things: cancer tumors or most likely, M.S.”
I’d like to say that I found the right words to say something extremely uplifting and profound, but I didn’t. I said, “Where are you?”
“On the highway,” choking and crying amidst rain pouring down on the car, a drizzling whir in the background.
“Well shit, I can’t get to you now,” that’s what I mustered. I said something else about, come home, we’ll talk about it here, and don’t call anyone else, just drive carefully, I’m right here, I love you.
We were in the middle of a move, a move back into his parent’s house, he was in graduate school, student teaching 30 miles from home, I was in my second year of teaching, and we were in our fourth almost fifth year of marriage.
“I want to do an Ironman.” This is what Andy stated a couple weeks after his diagnosis. “A what? What’s that?” I replied.
Cut to the present time, and here we are in Whistler, Canada.
We find ourselves in the midst of the day before a goal that was once set in the distance and is now within grasp.
Andy has always been a strong person, a caring and humorous individual who always looks on the bright side of life. I knew that he would recover well, that he would push forward and place his best foot forward. He is an inspirational human on numerous levels. The last four years have been a pathway filled with footprints from so many experiences, conversations, and decisions made. Being the partner of a person with MS has changed me in many ways. It has helped me to understand the meaning of appreciating health and life, and just how essential a goal can be. Andy has this amazing tenacity to always smile. He will always try to brighten someone’s day, or provide a kind word with a helping hand.
There have been so many memories, people, and events that have transpired over the last few years. One thing about a life ‘crisis,’ so to speak, is the amazing humanity that is brought forth. If we were to write a list and thank each person by name and for which event, which bike ride, which conversation we’ve had with them, it’d be a hefty, and lengthy list. You know who you are, and you know how much you mean to us.
Life is about never giving up. Always taking chances, and placing one foot in front of the other. In so many motivational speeches, books, and experiences I’ve experienced as of late, I find one phrase that always rings true: Just keep moving forward.
These foot steps have been tread before, but they are new to you, and they lie just before you. We all choose to make goals, and live our lives how we see fit. I’m so proud of my husband. He makes me feel grateful to have met him all those years ago on a dreary day in January.
Tomorrow I will watch him tread forward, on a day that means so much to not only him, but to all of us. That day in life, is a tomorrow that will become a today.
Sparkle on friends.