Partners in life

Some things seem too personal to share in a blog. This, from a woman who freely discusses in her book the doctor’s fancy stitch work on the episiotomy she had with the birth of her first child.

As I wrote Coupons, Chemo & Chuck E. Cheese: One Couple’s Journey Through Cancer I had to ask my husband’s permission to share some very personal facets of our life, but he understood why they were important to the story and allowed it. Still, we are both well aware that when the book is published we are opening up ourselves and our relationship to the public in ways that might not always be comfortable. There could be some good-natured teasing from co-workers (so, have you taken a shower with your wife lately?) as well as some animosity; reviewers or readers who would question some of our choices and maybe even find something like me nursing my toddlers to be repulsive.

There will be those who understand and laud our religious and moral values and those who are outraged that we didn’t have medical insurance with our first two births.

There will be family and friends who don’t care for how I portrayed them in the book and others who will wonder why I hid their identity or didn’t mention them at all.

That’s alright. We have been an anomaly among our married friends and siblings for many years. We know our lifestyle is not the status quo.

When I began writing this book, I thought I was writing about cancer. By the time I completed it, I realized I was writing about a relationship, a relationship that had changed so much for the better that I hardly recognized it. I was writing about me and David and a journey, a journey through cancer. What I ended up with was a true love story that can inspire any couple, whether facing cancer or not.

Yesterday, I got a bill in the mail that left me with an uncomfortable feeling of dread, one I hadn’t felt for a long time. I’d made a mistake, an expensive one, and now I had to scramble to make it right. I made a few phone calls, juggled a couple other bills, transferred some money into my checking, cashed a couple birthday checks, and then waited for David to get home.

I knew I had to tell him about my mistake. I have been handling our bills ever since we got married, but at one point I had started hiding our finances from my spouse. I would even shave off a couple dollars on the price I’d paid for something at a garage sale.

“They were only $1.00,” I’d tell him resentfully when he asked how much a pair of pants was in that tone, a tone that let me know he thought I didn’t need a pair of pants at all. (they were actually $2 or $3, but it had gotten so that I wouldn’t have told him the truth even if they were free)

By that point in our marriage we argued about money all the time and I’d taken to keeping our dire straits under wraps, a technique that kept David from blaming me for our lack of money, but did little for our relationship. We were not a team in handling our limited finances. Instead, it seemed as though the only kind of “partner” we were was of the sparring sort. Sadly, it took something as serious as cancer to put us on the same team.

This was B.C. (before cancer). I’d made a promise to David A.C. (after cancer). I would never keep something stressful about our finances from him. I would share with him as an equal partner. We knew this was important because when I took on all the stress of finances myself I started resenting him, and we never wanted to fall back into our old patterns.

We haven’t argued for a long time, not about anything, really. I can count on one hand the “fights” we have had in the three years since his cancer diagnosis, and those were mild. Once I called him at work just to tell him how sorry I was for being grouchy that morning and he told me he was just about to call me for the same reason. But I dreaded telling him about my expensive mistake. I hated disappointing him and I was fearful of his reaction. I waited until he’d finished eating and then I told him I needed to talk to him. My voice cracked, my hands shook a little as I pulled out the offending bill. I was surprised that I still felt fearful of David’s wrath, a wrath that had disappeared long ago. David listened as I told him what had happened, how I’d made the mistake and what it meant. I paused, waiting for him to explode. Instead, he took my hand and asked what he could do.

I cannot explain how relieved I felt at that moment. I was not alone. David was not blaming me, and he wanted to help. I told him I thought I had already fixed the mess, and that I was sorry.

I realized something as I sat with my husband at the table and shared my worries and he responded in the way he did. David and I are truly partners in life now.

This morning things looked brighter. I found some things I can sell to help out and considered ways I can save money in the future. We are not in dire straits. We might not have a lot of money to work with and there will likely be other bills and more mistakes, but knowing I have David on my side makes it a lot easier to face those days.

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