This post came to my first thing this morning as I opened my eyes, but instead of writing right away, I waited, and I hope it won't suffer as a result of my laziness. Yesterday was my brother's 52nd birthday. Regular followers of my blog will know that we weren't sure he would live to see this day, so it was a joyous occasion. The short version is that last January (2008) my brother suffered a heart attack. He went straight to the hospital and was diagnosed immediately and had a stent put in. He was transferred to another facility where he developed A.R.D.S. (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and was in a coma and on full life support until the very end of April. After coming out of the coma he required intensive therapy at a rehab center. He was finally released for home just before Thanksgiving this past year. He still needs a walker, braces and has many challenges, but when we think of what could have happened, we realize how blessed we are just to have my brother still around.
This all got me to thinking about my sister in law. She is an intensely private person, preferring to keep it all to herself. She loves deeply and fully, but isn't the demonstrative type. My brother and she have two sons, the oldest of whom was in his senior year of high school when his dad fell ill, and is now in his first year of college. The youngest is in middle school. My sister in law is a teacher. She works as a substitute for teachers on leave, generally in the high school, although sometimes in the middle high level. During the entire 11 plus months this was all going on (not that it STILL isn't mind you!) she was working full time, taking care of the two boys, and driving over 2 hours each way in all kinds of weather to visit my brother every single day (even when he was comatose for 4months straight). Now we may disagree on somethings, but that takes an awful lot of sacrifice, drive, strength and love - I don't think anyone would disagree with that!
We have a weird relationship, she doesn't call often or even give us regular updates on my brother. But I have such respect for her despite that, because she loves my brother completely and she shows it with her actions towards him. I feel nothing short of awe towards her. I think I started thinking about her not only because of my brother's birthday, but because I was already seeing references to Valentines Day everywhere on TV and the web. I am an odd girl when it comes to Valentines Day, I really feel it is a greeting card holiday made up to make people spend money and feel badly about themselves. You want to see true love? Show me the spouse who gets up at 5am, gets the kids ready for school, herself ready for work (educating other people's kids for 8 hours!) and then drives two hours in the snow and ice on the Long Island Expressway to sit beside my brother's comatose body just so she can hold his hand and stroke his hair and whisper how much she loves and needs him. I'll take that any day over a box of chocolates or a dozen roses! And I know my brother, he'd have done the same thing for her. They don't have a dream marriage, in fact, they have had more than their share of problems, health, financial and otherwise - but they are still together and still in love. They embody what the vows mean.
So although we may not be as close as I'd like and we may not speak as often as I wish, this Valentine's Day I know who I will be thinking of. I want to dedicate this Valentine's Day to all the spouses everywhere (I'm talking about you - Annie, Terri, Brian and John!) who take care of their spouses each and every day, not because you HAVE to but because you want to, because you love them. YOU are the real valentine's, the romance stories and the white knights because you show that true love exists, not in the Hallmark way, but in the real world way. You slug it out in the trenches each day and come back for more. Thank you for loving my brother, my friends, your spouses and for showing me what is truly possible.