A Christmas Miracle
One of the first things that attracted me to my husband over 10 years ago was his virility. If he wasn't running a marathon, he was competing in a bike race or maybe climbing a mountain. Joel was always moving, running, exercising. He had this perfect, toned body without even having to specifically work out at a gym. He had the sexiest body of any man I have ever met. That's part of why I fell in love with him.
Looking at Joel now, sitting next to me, his body strapped into a power wheelchair, his fingers curled and positioned in splints, his legs immobile, the word "virility" is the last thing that comes to mind. Another word much more quickly comes to mind, a word we've tried to avoid saying for the last year and a half since that damn truck hit Joel's bicycle:
Yes. There, I said it. My husband looks crippled. Severely crippled. Which makes sense, because that's what he is. And I'm sure I sound like a huge bitch saying this, but this isn't what I signed on for.
"It's getting late," Joel says to me, glancing at the clock in the wheelchair van that I'm driving. I still have my Honda Civic, but this ridiculous van is the only way we can go any place as a family anymore. There is no way in hell I could squeeze a power wheelchair into my Civic. "The crowds are going to be crazy. We should've left earlier."
"That wasn't exactly my fault, was it?" I snap at Joel.
That seems to have become my default the last few months. Snapping at him. Before--before this happened--we never used to fight. It's not that we fight a lot now exactly, but we're sort of always fighting.
Anyway, it was at least partially his fault. Granted, Joel wanted to leave in the morning, but we had an early lunch, and we would've been at the mall at a reasonable time. But then Joel spilled his drink on himself. It ended up all over his pants, so I had to help him change. If you think that's an easy process, it isn't. It took the better part of an hour.
And by then Kevin was absorbed in an episode of Teen Titans Go on the cartoon network, and had also managed to strip off half his clothing. I seriously wanted to cry. Between Kevin and Joel, I feel like I spend half my day trying to get people dressed. Sadly, at six years old, Kevin is the easier of the two.
Joel does what he usually does when I snap at him, which is he shuts the fuck up. He stares out the window, watching the few snowflakes trying to stick to the ground.
Five minutes later, I pull into the parking lot at the local mall. It's the weekend before Christmas, so it's definitely going to be mobbed, but I still have shopping to do, and Kevin is dying to pay Santa Claus a visit. Yes, the kid still believes fervently in Santa Claus. Part of me is itching to tell him the truth, and part of me really doesn't want to take away one of the few good things in his life.
The one good thing about the van is parking. If we didn't have our handicapped plates, we'd probably have to park in the next city over. But we get a great spot, right by the door. Count your blessings.
"You going to be OK?" I ask Joel.
Our plan for today is to divide and conquer. I'm going to do the shopping, while Joel will take Kevin to see Santa. It makes sense, since there's pretty much no way Joel could accomplish the task of shopping. I can see in his face that he's anxious though. The therapists say he'll get used to it, but right now, he's really anxious about doing things in public without me.
It's funny because one of the things I loved about Joel was his independence. Now he's afraid to even be in the house by himself. He's always like, "Taylor, when are you getting home? Do you think you'll be home soon? I really wish you'd come home."
I guess I can't entirely blame the guy. There's a lot he can't do without at least some help. Like, he can't eat without my getting the food out and setting it up for him. If the power died on his wheelchair, he'd be pretty much screwed. Still, he can use the computer and the television. And he can even open the front door now that we installed handles instead of doorknobs. But he still gets anxious.
So much for my virile, independent husband.
"I'll be fine," Joel says, with more confidence than I know he has. He glances back at our son. "I've got Kevin, after all."
So my six-year-old child will be babysitting my husband. That's just great. Wonderful.
We get out of the car, which is a production in itself. We bought our van secondhand because at the time, we were counting on a miraculous recovery. Now that it's pretty clear that we're going to be stuck with a wheelchair van for the foreseeable future, I sort of wish we got one where I didn't have to say a little prayer every time I lower the ramp. But this time, it goes down without a hitch, and Joel is able to dismount without a problem.
As we head towards the entrance to the mall, the crowd starts to thicken. Joel practically mows down a woman pushing a baby carriage. "I'm so sorry," he says to her, as she flashes him a dirty look. Most people are pretty nice, if a bit patronizing, to Joel, so I'm surprised by her hostility. I guess the holidays bring out the best in people.
I can't help but get a look at the baby in her carriage. She's really adorable, all dressed up in a red satin dress. I was supposed to have a baby by now. Joel and I had first started trying again when he got hurt.
And now, a year and a half later, it's my husband's ass that I have to wipe instead of that of an adorable little baby. The universe definitely is not without a sense of irony.
Even if I wasn't completely overwhelmed by caring for my husband, a baby is out of the question right now. Sex... yeah, that's not working out too well. Joel's doctor gave him a prescription for Viagra, and we tried a few times, but it was a flop. Literally. Despite my best effort to arouse him, all we ended up was a slightly hard but mostly soft penis.
After several frustrating nights, I think both Joel and I were ready to call it quits. Apparently, we are going to have a sex free marriage.
Which is fine by me. Because after transferring him into bed at night, undressing him, emptying his catheter bag, and doing his bowel program, my sexual desire for Joel is pretty much at zero. And I'm talking about a man that I once fucked in a public restroom because I couldn't wait to get home.
I don't know if it's the crowd or what, but Joel is having a lot of trouble steering his wheelchair right now. After nearly hitting the baby carriage, he misses a curb cut, and as an encore, he sideswipes a pole. I get that it's hard for him to operate a wheelchair with his arm when all he can move is his elbow, but he's usually a little better than this.
"Joel, can you be a little bit more careful?" I snap at him.
See? There I go again. Snapping at him. I wasn't always this irritable.
Joel lifts his hand off the joystick he uses to operate the chair. "You put the wrong splint on my hand," he says. "This is the one I use to eat with. That's why I'm having trouble."
"Well, why didn't you say something before?" I snap.
I used to be a wonderful, loving wife, I swear.
"I didn't notice," he says, rather sheepishly. "I've got another one in the car. If you could go get it…"
I wish I could tell him to go get the damn split himself, but of course, he can't. He can't open the car, he can't rifle through the glove compartment. And if he found the splint, he wouldn't be able to pick it up. Same way he can't do the dishes, take out the trash, help with the laundry. You get the idea. Every chore is mine.
"Fine," I snap.
Joel lowers his blue eyes. "Thanks, Taylor."
I walk back to the car to find his goddamn splint. I feel like my blood pressure is now a million over a billion. If it takes me any longer than 60 seconds to find the splint, I'll probably have a stroke. Actually, that would be a relief.
Luckily, I find it right away. I hop back out of the van and I'm locking it up, when a middle aged woman approaches me. She looks pissed off.
"You've got some nerve," she says to me.
"Excuse me?" I say as politely as I can muster.
"Look at you," she says, "taking up a handicapped spot when you are very clearly not handicapped. Don't you have any shame?"
I want to scream at her that my husband is a quadriplegic and I would happily park a million miles away from the mall if it meant that I could have my old husband back. The guy that I loved more than my own life.
Then I want to scream at her to go fuck herself.
Luckily, before I cause a massive scene, I see Joel wheeling over to the car with Kevin following behind him. Because naturally, Joel is anxious about being alone for more than 30 seconds.
"Tay?" he says. "Did you find it?"
At least this time I'm happy to see him. Because it shuts that woman up so fast, I can see her fat face turn red. She doesn't even apologize.
I walk over to Joel with the splint. I pull the one he's wearing off of his fingers, trying not to dwell on the wasted muscles of the hand. I wonder how much longer I can do this for. When Joel first got injured, he was nervous that I couldn't handle it. I swore to him that I could, that our love went deeper than that. And at the time, I meant it with every fiber of my being. I loved Joel. So much.
But right now, I just don't want to be the callous bitch who left her husband right after he got crippled.
With Joel's new splint in place, we head back toward the entrance to the mall. I've got a lot of shopping to do, but I know that the first thing I'm going to do when I find have a second to myself is find the nearest restroom, lock myself in a stall, and cry.
I am absolutely terrified that I'm going to lose my son in this goddamn mall.
I told Kevin like 10 times that he needs to stay next to me. Stay next to me, Kevin, so I don't lose you. But he's six, so he can keep information in his brain for maybe five minutes. 10 minutes tops. Then he's racing through the crowded hallways of the mall, and I'm desperately trying to keep his blue sweater in view while hysterically shouting out his name.
It's not that I can't keep up with him in terms of speed. My wheelchair can go fast, really fast, if I want it to. But one thing that I can't do is weave in and out of crowds easily in this gigantic fucking chair. So unless I want to mow down a bunch of innocent shoppers, I've got to go pretty slow.
"Kevin!" I yell, as he gets an uncomfortable distance away for me.
He hears me, thank God, and skids to a stop. He's like me. Can't stop moving for anything.
Or at least, he's like the way I used to be.
"What is it, dad?" he asks.
"I told you that you gotta stay next to me, right?" I remind him.
"Sorry," Kevin shrugs, like I didn't just tell him the exact same thing five minutes ago.
I sigh. This will get easier as he gets older, I know that. Which is both good and bad. Right now, I'm the parent, I'm explaining to him what safe and telling him what he can and can't do. I am the one watching him. But at some point, it's going to reverse. He'll be the one watching me, making sure that I have everything I need.
It's already started, actually. I'd be terrified to be all alone in this mall without Kevin. I've got money in a pouch on my wheelchair, but it takes me about five years to get it out, and it's a pain in the ass. If I wanted to eat something, I would need Kevin to help me get my splint on and put the utensil in the splint. That's already his job at home. One of the ways he earns stickers on his sticker chart is to help me with dinner.
And what if my wheelchair malfunctioned? What if the battery died? What if a tire blew out?
Christ, what if my wheelchair died while Kevin was running away from me?
Just thinking about it makes me wish that I had stayed closer to Taylor…
"Do you want to go get some food first in the food court or do you want to see Santa?" I ask Kevin.
He thinks for a minute. "Santa first."
What a relief. I hate eating in public. It's a spectacle. Yeah, everything I do is a spectacle to some degree. But the way I eat is particularly bad. I'm sure when Kevin gets old enough, it will really embarrass him, if it doesn't already.
Actually, it's amazing that I can feed myself at all. You know how much movement I've got in my arms? Not fucking much. I can shrug my shoulders and bend my elbows. And when I say I can bend my elbows, that's literally all I can do. I can't even straighten them out. If I want to straighten them, I hold them in such a way that gravity takes over. That doesn't make for clean eating. A bib is pretty much a necessity when I eat if I don't want food all over my shirt.
It ends up being a really good thing we didn't stop at the food court, because the line for Santa is ridiculous. We would need binoculars to see Santa from our place at the end of the line. To be honest, part of me is hoping that maybe some mall manager will see me and I'll get to play the cripple card and skip to the front of the line. It happens, but apparently not today. I guess the cripple card only applies to crippled kids going to see Santa, not crippled dads.
Then again, I don't know what our hurry is. We're not leaving this mall until Taylor finishes her shopping, and if I know Tay, that could take 10 or 11 hours.
Although truthfully, I'm not entirely sure I know Taylor anymore. Well, aside from the fact that she desperately wants to get the fuck out of our marriage.
Yeah, I know. How could I not know? I was wearing a helmet when that truck hit me, so I don't have any brain damage.
Tay and I used to have one of those really great marriages, where we were as infatuated with each other after a baby and years of marriage as we were when we first hooked up. It was hard not to be infatuated with Taylor. I mean, she's really hot. Perfect tits, bangin' ass, and these big pouty lips. And always up for anything. There was no such thing as not being in the mood when it came to my wife.
I still think she's the hottest woman I've ever met. She still does it for me. The problem is, it's not mutual anymore. I see the way she looks at me, with barely concealed disgust and irritation.
And who could blame her? I mean, she helps me go to the bathroom. I actually had to argue with her because I wanted to quit wearing diapers after I had been accident free for two months. This was an actual argument that we had as husband and wife. She kept snapping at me, "What's the big deal, Joel?"
The fact that she couldn't seem to get it that as a grown man I didn't want to have to wear a diaper said it all. She didn't get it because she doesn't see me as a man anymore. She sees me as a crippled thing. A distasteful chore she has to take care of every single night.
We can't even fucking fuck anymore. We tried. What a disaster. Even with the Viagra, I couldn't maintain a boner for the life of me. That was before Taylor really started despising me, so she actually made an effort. She even got my dick in her mouth at one point. And as much as I used to love that ("love" is probably not a strong enough word here), I just wanted to ask her to stop. It was obviously not working, and the truth is, I don't trust my body anymore. All I could think about was how awful it would be if I pissed in Taylor's mouth by mistake.
I talked to my doctor, and there are other possibilities for things we could try, apparently. We could inject my penis directly. We could use a pump. And if all else fails, I could try a strap on.
Yeah, because that wouldn't be emasculating at all. To have a dick that's so useless that I need a strap on to fuck my wife.
Yeah, so, Taylor is going to leave me. That's a given. No debate, no contemplating, it's just a fact. The only question is when.
Selfishly, I'm hoping it will be later rather than sooner. For starters, if she leaves me right now, I'm screwed and she knows it. I can't exactly live on my own right now, and my parents are pushing 70. They're still healthy enough to come by every day when Taylor isn't there to help me with lunch, but not healthy enough to take on the full-time care of a quadriplegic son.
My insurance will pay for a care assistant in the morning, but not at night. So the only other option is a nursing home. Yes, I realize it's fucked up that the insurance will pay for a nursing home, but not somebody to come to my own home for an hour every night to help me. That's healthcare in America, ladies and gentlemen.
I don't want to live in a nursing home. I'm only 35 years old. And if I went to a nursing home, I'd only get to see Kevin as often as Taylor would bring him over to see me. I mean, it's not like I'm going to hop in a car and drive by the house. So that would suck. A lot.
Except the biggest reason I'm hoping Taylor holds on a little bit longer is that if she leaves me, I won't get to see her anymore either. And that would kill me. As much as she hates me right now, I still really really really really really love her. Really really. Really.
"Daddy, I'm bored," Kevin whines.
I don't blame him. These kids have been waiting in line a really long time, and the natives are getting restless. Ahead of us, two kids are simultaneously spinning around in circles until they collapse from dizziness. It's cruel to make a bunch of kids wait so long for something that's complete bullshit anyway.
"Want a ride?" I offer.
Kevin nods eagerly. He climbs up on my lap, and I put my left arm around him the best that I can. Then I start wheeling around in as small circles as my turning radius will allow. We're sort of losing our place, but I'm hopeful the nice people behind us will understand and save it for us. If not, I'm definitely going to play the cripple card.
Kevin squeals in delight. He loves this. It's my one consolation in light of the fact that I can't toss a football around with him or go camping with him, or do any of the cool stuff that my dad used to do it with me. At least I can still make him laugh.
Actually, judging by the way kids are gathering around to watch us, I think if I started offering free rides, I could command a line that would give Santa a run for his money.
Eh, maybe another day.
I'm carrying two full bags of presents by the time I go to find Joel and Kevin. I bought way more than I should have, especially considering money is tight right now. But I feel like I have so little enjoyment in my life right now, I wanted to indulge.
When I get to the Santa court, the first thing I see is Joel's wheelchair. Kevin is sitting in his lap, and he's driving around in circles while Kevin laughs his head off. Joel is smiling too, and it looks like the two of them are having the time of their lives.
Here's the thing. A great body is very sexy. So is a great athlete. But there is nothing quite as sexy in the world as watching your husband be a great dad to your child.
I just watch them for a minute, taking it all in. I don't think I've seen Joel smile that wide in over a year. Neither have I. It's like both of us paralyzed our smile muscles. But his seem to have started working again somehow. It's a Christmas miracle, or something like that.
Too bad the miracle isn't working on his body too.
"Taylor," Joel says as he finally notices me. "You're done."
The smile fades from his face. Although not entirely. I notice that the crows feet he's gotten in the last couple of years make his face look more handsome than he did when he was younger. Sexier. How did I miss that?
"Looks like it," I say, holding up my two bags stuffed with presents.
He eyes my packages. "You should let me carry those for you."
Back in the old days, Joel never let me carry my own bags. No matter how crazy I went shopping. But those days are long gone.
I roll my eyes. "Yeah, right."
"Why not?" he says. "Just put one of the bags on my lap and the other you can hang from the back of my chair."
I raise my eyebrows at him. "Will that work?"
"Of course," he says. "I never let you carry your own packages. Right, Tay?"
I look down at Kevin, who is snuggled up against Joel's chest. "Looks like your lap is occupied."
"Actually," he says, "we're next. So it won't be in a minute."
On that note, we hear a voice call out, "Next!" Kevin scrambles off Joel's lap, and makes a beeline for the white-haired guy in the red suit.
I drop my bags on the floor, and watch Kevin plop down on Santa's lap. "I can't believe he still believes in Santa Claus," I murmur to Joel.
Joel stares at me, wide-eyed. "You mean Santa Claus isn't real? Are you serious?"
I slug him in the shoulder, and he laughs. It occurs to me that it's the first time in a long time that I've touched my husband where it wasn't part of his care.
"What is your name, little boy?" Santa asks Kevin
"And what would you like for Christmas?"
Kevin ticks off the items on his Christmas list, as I make a mental checklist of the toys I've got stowed away in our bedroom closet. It's the usual array of cars and action figures. I even relented to buy him one Play-doh set, after a two-year ban on play-doh. (I hate that stuff. It sticks to everything.)
"Also," he adds, just as I think he's coming to the end of his list, "I want Daddy to be able to walk so that Mommy will love him again."
Joel and I exchange equally horrified looks. He looks about as embarrassed as I feel, although he shouldn't be. I'm the monster in all this who stopped loving my husband because he was in a terrible accident. Santa is squinting at me, and I notice that a few people in line behind us are giving me dirty looks. Well, that's just great.
Honestly, I had no idea that Kevin was aware of how my feelings for Joel had diminished. Actually, I sort of thought that maybe Joel wasn't aware either. I thought I was putting up a brilliant façade. But it's pretty clear that everybody in the world knew the truth.
My cheeks are absolutely on fire as Kevin hops off Santa's lap, takes his complementary candy cane, and rejoins us. He smiles toothily at us, as if he just didn't just completely humiliate me in front of about a thousand people.
"Let's go home," Joel manages.
We can't get out of this place fast enough.
Taylor doesn't say one word during the entire drive home. Not that she's been particularly chatty recently, but usually she isn't quite so quiet. It's freaking me out.
I'm so fucking pissed off at Santa Claus right now. I've been pretending like I have no idea how miserable Taylor is with me. But now Kevin's Christmas list has forced her hand. We have to both own up to the fact that Taylor is no longer in love with me
And obviously, that can only mean one thing for our marriage.
When Taylor pulls into our garage, she turns to the back of the car, and says, "Kevin, can you go into the house and watch TV? I need to talk to Daddy."
No, no, no! Not now! Why do we have to have this talk right now? Can't we at least keep up the façade until bedtime?
As Kevin unbuckles his seatbelt, I notice that my head has started to throb during the drive home. I have every reason to have one hell of a headache right now, but because of my injury, a headache can be a warning sign of something called autonomic dysreflexia. That's when my blood pressure shoots up to scary levels and can cause a stroke, which is just about the last thing I need right now. Usually when it happens to me, it's because my catheter bag is full and the urine can't drain out anymore.
I look down at my pants leg. It's hard to tell through my baggy slacks if the bag is full. When we get inside, I'll have to ask Taylor to check. I can just imagine our conversation:
Joel, I just don't think I'm attracted to you anymore.
Really? Why not? Also, honey, can you please empty out my bulging bag of piss?
Honestly, she probably deserves a medal for sticking around this long.
Kevin slams the door shut, and now Taylor and I are alone in the car. I turn to look at her. God, she's really fucking beautiful. When this is over, I'm going to miss looking at her. It's painful to think about a life without her.
"Joel," she begins.
"Yeah," I manage.
Just say it and get it the fuck over with. Before my goddamn urine bag springs a leak and I end up with piss all over my pants that she's going to have to clean up. (Yes, that has happened to me. Welcome to last Saturday.)
Taylor takes a deep breath. I watch as she reaches out and puts her hand on top of my shoulder, in a place that she knows I can feel.
"I haven't stopped loving you," she says.
I look into her eyes. I wonder if she really means it. How can she? How can she look at me and want me a millionth as much as I want her?
"It's just…" She bites her lip and looks out the windshield. "It's hard. You know?"
For you and me both, baby.
She sighs and shakes her head. "Anyway, I better go get started on dinner."
And strangely enough, that's the end of our conversation. Taylor doesn't tell me that she's kicking me out or hand me a brochure for Shadyoaks nursing home. But I don't get the sense that all is moonbeams and lollipops between us again.
Although it's good to know that she still loves me. Or that she doesn't not love me. Or something. Whatever. It's better than the alternative.
Joel is quiet for most of the rest of the evening. As a change of pace, I don't snap at him even once. Even when he manages to knock over his cup of water, and water spills all over the table, despite the fact that the goddamn cup had a cover on it. And I had to clean it up, even though he was the one who spilled it.
The truth is that I do still love him. I love the way he plays with Kevin, even though it's so hard for him now. I love his smile, even though I don't see it nearly as much anymore. I love his thick brown hair and the way it feels under my fingers. I love his blue eyes, and the way he looks at me like I'm the sexiest woman in the world.
We start getting ready for bed these days at around 9:30. Joel used to be the kind of guy who stayed up past midnight every night, but it takes over an hour to get him ready for bed, and I'm too tired if we wait past 10. It's a long process, not one I want to undertake if I can barely keep my eyes open.
The house seems so quiet with Kevin in bed. Joel and I go to the bedroom, and he lines up in front of the lift I use to transfer him from his wheelchair into the bed. I used to sometimes do it without a lift, but then I hurt my back, so we're not taking any chances.
Joel and I sleep in separate twin beds. He has an adjustable bed frame, so that he can press a button to sit up in bed, and a memory foam mattress for skin protection. We pushed our twin beds together, but we may as well be sleeping into separate rooms these days.
The lift is next to his bed obviously. I start to lower the sling that supports his upper body, but then Joel says, "Wait."
A day ago, I would've snapped at him for telling me to wait. I would have told him that I'm tired, and I can't go to bed until he does, so he's damn well going to bed right now. But instead, I pause.
"Taylor…" He looks up at me with his sweet blue eyes. "I want to do something for you."
I shake my head at him. "What are you talking about?"
Joel smiles crookedly. "I want to go down on you."
"Please, Tay?" he says.
Christ, well, I'm not the kind of girl who would refuse her husband something he really wants to do…
I step back from the lift. "What are you thinking? Like… logistically?"
Joel looks at our twin beds thoughtfully. "I think if you lie down on the bed and prop yourself up a bit, I could get in there."
It's worth a try. I strip off my shirt and jeans. I notice the way Joel is watching me intently. He looks like he really wants me. He looks like a man who's been lost and wandering the desert for years and has finally come across the stream of water.
"Do you want me to undress you too?" I ask him.
Joel shakes his head emphatically. "No. It's not… a pretty sight." I start to disagree with him, but he interrupts me: "Really, Taylor. It's OK. I know it."
He's wrong. But I'm not going to pick this fight right now.
I lie down in bed and prop two pillows under my butt. I scooch all the way to the end of the bed like I'm getting a cervical exam. I lift my head to see how Joel is doing. He is at the foot of the bed, looking a little bit frustrated.
"I can't reach," he says. He sighs. "OK, how about this? Can you undo my top strap?"
Joel has no muscles whatsoever in his trunk, so he has one strap across his waist, and a second strap across his upper chest. Without that strap, it's very hard for him to remain upright in his wheelchair. Between you and me, I hate that strap. Even though I get that he needs it, it really makes him look impaired.
I sit up in bed and pull apart the Velcro strap. His upper body slumps forward a little awkwardly. "Are you OK?" I ask him.
"I think so," he says, not sounding entirely certain. "Can you lie down again?"
And by golly, it works this time. He's able to lean forward enough to get in close to my pussy, supporting himself with his elbows on the bed. This position feels only vaguely familiar. In the before era, Joel wasn't big on going down on me. Usually, we were both very happy with regular intercourse.
But I can tell right now this is what he wants to do more than anything in the world. I feel his tongue lapping at me eagerly, tickling my sweet spot for all he's worth. He's not shy about getting in there. He wants me. He wants to devour me.
It's almost an effort to keep from coming immediately. I keep myself at the brink as long as I can possibly stand it, and then: I explode.
It's the best orgasm that I've had in a really long time. Maybe years. Certainly in the time since Joel has been hurt and I've had to use old righty exclusively. My body is soaked with sweat and my legs are shaking.
I hear the sound of Joel's wheels on the floorboards, rounding the side of the bed. He's still slouched forward in his chair, so I force myself into a sitting position so that I can help strap him back in.
"Did I do good?" he asks.
"You did amazing," I confirm, as I reach out and run my hand through his hair. I lie back against the bed, staring up at the ceiling. "You did so good that I don't know if I can force myself to get up to help you get ready for bed."
Joel is quiet for a minute. I wonder if maybe I shouldn't have said anything. Maybe it killed the mood to talk about how I'm the one who has to help him get ready for bed. Maybe it made him feel like less of a man.
"My firm offered to let me do some work at home," he says finally. "I think I'm going to do it. Get back into the workforce."
"Really?" I prop myself up on my elbow and look at him in surprise. "I thought you said it would be too hard."
"I was just worried about failing," he admits. "But I thought about it and I want to give it a try. And with the money I earn, I want to hire a care assistant to help me at night so that you don't have to anymore."
OK, that part really surprised me.
"Joel, I don't mind…"
"You're my wife. You're not my nurse." He shakes his head. "It's not your job to dress me and bathe me. I'm almost positive it wasn't in our wedding vows." He takes a deep breath. "And I'm scared that if you keep doing it, I'm going to lose you."
"I want this, Tay," he says firmly. And I realize there's no way I'm going to talk him out of it. And the truth is, I don't really want to. I think hiring a care assistant for the evening is a great idea. I think it will save our marriage.
And I've recently realized there's a lot worth saving.
"I love you, Taylor," he says softly.
"I love you too," I say.
And Merry Christmas.