Dear This Is Us,
My husband and I have been married since 1996. He came home one day in late spring 2015, and the stuff that used to make us laugh no longer made us laugh. With limited functioning of his right leg, he was bedridden for about a month. We were mad at each other for a bit, and then you. I’m the sort of person who tries to create reasons to smile, however hard you screw me up. I need you to look at me with the blind eye of one who has been deposed to the King of the Klezmer Clowns.
We thought we could do it. We could live a normal life in Manhattan. We could get health insurance. We could still laugh. We knew there was something wrong. We did everything we could to cheer ourselves up. We talked and wrote and imagined what it would be like to have a disability. We tried on costumes to pretend to be able-bodied. We prayed. We read lots of books.
We were wrong.
Gotta ask my husband about the funny lies he told me about the virus.
But there were reasons to smile. Not just the small things. We went to every concert that was going on. The explosion was amazing. The fireworks were big.
And the joyous other celebrities with our infirmity smiled at us. Golden Retrievers, stilt walkers, bike riders, rappers, Olympic hurdlers, badminton players. I would listen to Beck and do the wave and watch Joey Chestnut eat 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. A française named Isabelle. A man named David, who had lost three limbs to cancer, standing on one leg with two prosthetic legs. I got to meet Angelina Jolie and Keanu Reeves, or, if it’s the day you are remembering them, LeBron James.
He didn’t look lost, but he didn’t look sharp, either. No longer able to walk, my hubby learned to crawl.
He seemed fine, and at home he took solace in his new bike. He took solace in the assistant he trusted to carry him to the dining room and the ease of learning how to use it. We encouraged him to ride long distances in it. We rode long distances without him in it. We rode near where we used to go out on the dance floor at brunch. We rode for hours into New Jersey, with his head out of the tailpipe on the gun club track, in the path of high-pitched cars. We biked the Bronx, or on a particularly clear evening through the city back to the North shore.
The best thing I learned about him, in the middle of this illness, was that he is a survivor, and that all life is a gift.
The reasons we had to smile didn’t matter anymore. They didn’t matter to us.
We still did a lot of the same things. We still laughed at jokes that weren’t funny. We still love each other.
Now he has recovery. He’s been doing pretty well and is about to go back to work as a laborer. He is helped around by an assistant and often walks with crutches. He has no visible injury. He never used to walk or stand, so his crutches are very useful. He still doesn’t understand not being able to walk without a limp. He still draws self-portraits with crutches. He is still himself, saying hello or goodnight on his way to do dishes.
Thank you. Because without you, we couldn’t have known the experience.
God bless you, especially for gifting us with what’s become a touching love story.