I wonder if you're as thankful as I am at the promise of a more typical summer this year. For most of us, the past fourteen months haven’t passed without considerable trauma, and many are moving forward with a life that will never be the same after losing loved ones during the pandemic. I read all your comments and emails, and my heart goes out to you. When we least expect it, life can have a way of handing us what we aren’t prepared for. It certainly did for me earlier this year, which I’ve shared a bit about on social media and in my newsletter.
I’ve long been a sucker for a good love story. Not only is crafting them what I do for a living, but they’re also the first books I reach for and movies I watch. With that being said, I’m dedicating this blog to my parents, who recently celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary. They met in the late sixties at a drinking fountain at work in a large company, and six months later (yes, only six months…a sign of different times!), they were married. Like most real-life love stories, life wasn’t always perfect, but it was good. They loved each other, raised children, and eventually became empty nesters and grandparents.
This year on Valentine’s Day, the day before their anniversary, they came as close as they’ve been to their love story coming to an end. A week prior, my father underwent surgery to have a knee replacement. With him still bed ridden, Valentine’s Day and their anniversary celebrations were minimal. As a giant snow storm pressed in, promising to blast the Midwest in near-record snows, at some point while my dad dozed, my mom started not feeling well. Her symptoms—which she doesn’t remember but which we’ve since pieced together—included a headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Not knowing her condition was far more serious than she could conceive, my mom lost precious hours caring for herself in one of their spare bedrooms. She was having a stroke and didn’t know it. Her brain was bleeding, and her body was shutting down.
With my dad confined to bed, and my mom having a stroke and not knowing she needed help until it was too late to seek it, these uncertain hours could’ve led to a Shakespearean-level tragedy for my family. But, dear reader, I’m sharing this story because in the midst of Covid-19 isolation, a massive snow storm, a knee placement, and a stroke, some bigger force won out that day: love. By the time my mom finally sought out my dad, she wasn’t looking for his help. Her body had begun shutting down, and she’d lost her ability to speak. Somehow, she still made it into their bed, curled up alongside him, and snuggled next to him as she fell to sleep. It was at this time that my father realized something was terribly wrong. My mom was rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital. The next month was the most trying one of my family's lives so far. In the hours and days that followed, she was given 50/50 odds of surviving and spent the next 17 days in ICU.
That night, while fishtailing in deep snow, I drove to the hospital and later to my dad’s to care for him, leaving my youngest (17) to fend for himself at home for several days. This trying time was filled with prayers, tears, and connection. The days were surreal and exhausting, but we made it through. All of us. After 39 days in the hospital and rehab, my mom was finally able to go home. She could both talk and walk (after we’d been told neither might be possible for her again). While she still had a long road to healing ahead, it has been one we’ve been grateful for every day.
During this uncertain time, I was working on developmental edits for To Be Loved By You (Rescue Me #6, releasing January 2022). While the type of love featured in romance novels is new, uncertain, and exciting, I found myself relating the book’s title to the love that develops over a lifetime of togetherness, and I salute my parents for all the work they’ve done to take this beautiful journey of life together. They married young and have grown together over decades. As with many long-married couples, their love has morphed into the quiet kind that might not sell books but brings families together over the holidays and leaves a mark on the heart like a long-traveled path--the kind that brings lovers together when words, and sometimes even bodies, fail.
Thanks in part to the heartfelt emotion which led my mom back to my dad that night, my parents’ love story continues. In the words of Audrey Hepburn, “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”