We were driving somewhere recently when I was struck by a message on one of those road safety billboards – “You can’t see what you don’t look for.” It was about the need to proactively look for motorcyclists and bicyclists, but for some reason my mind took it in a different direction that day.
My husband, Scott, and I regularly tell each other “I love you” – when one of us leaves for the day, when we’re going to sleep at night and occasionally when getting off of the phone. There’s also the spontaneous “I love you” that sneaks in there from time to time, but in the busyness of life with three very lively children, those kind are fewer and farther between.
What’s easiest to see is the chair that isn’t pushed in, the bills that are stacking up, the trash that needs taking out.
Less apparent are the ways he says “I love you” so many times a day that have nothing to do with words coming out of his mouth.
I thought I would look for those times he told me he loved me for one whole day, just to see what I might find.
What I found is that my chair-leaving-out, bill-stacking-up, trash-piling-up husband loves me so well. Just noticing his tiny but profound acts of love for just one day filled my love cup to overflowing; and the thing that strikes me the most, is that he probably didn’t change one bit.
I never told him about my experiment. The billboard was right. I couldn’t see what I wasn’t looking for. When I started looking for the right things, my heart felt so full that I pushed in the chair and took out the trash and it felt like a privilege to give back to the one who was giving so much to me.
1:15 a.m. – I hear the sounds of a crying child coming into my room. It’s my youngest daughter and she is sick. My side of the bed is closest to the door, so it’s me she comes for, and it’s me who takes her into the bathroom and holds her hair back. It’s handled, but Scott comes in to the bathroom after me and asks me what I need.
3:12 a.m. – It’s our third trip to the bathroom and Scott still asks how he can help. I tell him to just sleep because he has to get to the office in the morning and I’m able to be at home with our girl.
5:46 a.m. – Time number five. No longer getting out of bed, Scott still rouses enough to rub my shoulders when I climb back in bed to lay without sleeping once more. He tells me he’s sorry that I’m having the night that I am.
7:30 a.m. – The house is awake and I’m rushing my boy through the morning routine so that he can make the bus, but we’re all running late and it’s hard through my fog of weariness. Scott comes into the kitchen to tell me not to worry – he’ll rush through getting ready so he can drive our son to school.
7:35 a.m. – We discover the path of destruction from the bunkbed to the kids’ bedroom door. As an aside, getting sick in a bunkbed is not ideal – climbing down a ladder while nauseous?! The carpet’s got to be cleaned and it’s got to be me because this is the stuff of nightmares. It can’t possibly be allowed to sit until the evening. Scott says he’ll drop our son off and then hit up HEB to rent a carpet cleaner and will head into work late, trying to make calls from the car, so that it spares me the drive and the effort of hauling the machine.
7:58 a.m. – Scott kisses me goodbye and tells me that he loves me, wishing me good luck as he leaves.
8:10 a.m. – HEB doesn’t rent the darn machine until 10. Scott promises to use his lunch break to take care of it for me so I don’t have to deal.
12:45 p.m. – Success! Scott is home with the machine. He remembered we were out of apples and that I was craving them the other day, so he brings me home two of my favorite kind. Also, loads of Lysol and sprays – hah! He pounds a few cookies, catching me up on some gossip he heard, tells me he loves me, kisses our girl (on the head) then hits the road.
6:00 p.m. – Scott’s home a little early, knowing I’ve had a rough day. He walks in and asks how he can help. About the best thing a husband can say to his wife.
7:48 p.m. – Scott takes over the whole bedtime routine, which we usually split, so that I can get some work done that didn’t get touched during my day of laundry, Lysol and loving on my girl.
8:30 p.m. – Scott’s back downstairs and asks me if I need a water. I never get myself one and always need to drink more. I swear I’d be dehydrated without him!
9:00 p.m. – I’m exhausted and can’t take anymore. I flip off a few lights, flop in my bed and leave Scott to let the dog out and feed the fish, which he does every night anyway. We call out to each other our goodnights and I love yous.
10:00 p.m. – Giving up on the day himself, I feel Scott pull the covers up over my shoulders, climb into bed and tuck his feet up against mine. I know our thoughts are the same – please, no more sick children tonight!
Photography: Jessica Rockowitz Photography + Film