Love Language

It’s a rainy Sunday morning. I’m sitting cross-legged on my couch, the fancy one I won’t let anyone eat or drink around. I’m breaking my rule and have a few last drops of coffee shallowing out my cup on the table next to me. My feet are feeling a little numb because I don’t want to detangle just yet. My laptop has set small lines on my thighs.  I woke up in the dark because I couldn’t sleep and have waited quietly for the yellow to come through, but all I’m seeing this morning include dull whites and greens because the rain has got some work to do.

I got to working yesterday as well. After a conversation that spun about spouses to fictional characters to stories, I found myself staring at something I’d read five or six years ago when my friend was trying to figure some things out about her life: websites on love languages. If you’re like me and could use some brushing up, here’s some quick info on it: Gary Chapman wrote a book in 1995 that has been on bestseller lists for some time. In it he describes the five ways humans experience and express love. It’s broken down and clarified into these expressions: physical touch, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time.

I had dropped off the kids to enjoy freedom with their grandparents for the night. Kal was working, so I treated myself to a pedicure. While I waited to get seated, I took two online tests to figure out which love language I spoke. Don’t we all want to know more about ourselves by clicking on a few questions?

I don’t know how truly accurate they are, but this one and this one were of the first to pop up on my search, and I was anxious to figure out what love language I was without having to read the book (reading will have to resume after the school year lets me up for air). I did both tests and figured out that generally, one of these is my primary and one of these is my secondary love language. 

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I was not surprised to find out that words of affirmation was a big one for me. Of course that makes sense. I was disappointed, though, to figure out the one about my loving gifts. It makes sense though. I think I show love in this way and maybe my friends could attest to that. Looking back on it, I could never understand how Kal would get uncomfortable receiving gifts or how he’s not the gift-for-the-occasion person that I certainly am. I guess if I look back deeply enough, I get it–not the materialistic side (ah!), but the side of having someone think of you and just do something concrete with some forethought.

Before 8 pm when we were surrounded by date-night plates of sashimi, I read questions aloud to Kal as he drove us to the restaurant. I clicked his answers to some interesting questions. With the advantage of knowing him for 14 years, I read questions like, “After a long and tough week, what do you want most from your partner?” or “When you’re in an emotional place, you want your partner to…” After two tests, we figured out his love language.

Having a partner for over a decade gives you the advantage of knowing them up close and personal. It doesn’t mean variables won’t change you or that people won’t disappoint you, but there are basic things you just kind of know. It’s validating to know that I probably could guess at his language but didn’t know exactly how to break it down or how my way of expressing was different from his way.

I asked him to guess mine, and instantly he said words of affirmation. When I told him about the gift one, he laughed and said, “yeah, I can see that.” All of this online quizzing brought us to some open and new conversation. That type of talk is truly refreshing in marriages when life operations consume most of our conversational energy. We got this small glimpse of how things can be reframed and adjusted like a painting that you move from one wall to another. You notice something you haven’t seen before even though it’s been in front of you for years.

As we walked into the restaurant, I told him that I’d most definitely hug him more and be enthusiastic about cooking dinners, something that because it usually falls on me feels like a chore those nights I just want to not think about taking out the chicken. In turn, I kidded, he may want to praise me, get me a small gift, and then maybe load up the dishwasher.

Take the quirky quizzes yourself and see where they take you. It’s a perfect Sunday morning thing to do, and it can teach you something about how you express and receive love in any type of relationship.

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Stitches

Zade is not yet 5 but has had over twice that number in emergency stitches. Over a year ago, he needed 6 stitches on his hand, and now he has 7 more on his face. I will no longer hear a story about a kid getting stitches and take it casually.

What ends up as a faded line starts as a break in expectations and pain. 

Thursday started with confidence. After work I even had coffee with a former student turned teacher, a perfect kind of person you hope the education world will appreciate.

I went for a run and came back to kids who like myself needed bathing. Five minutes after their routine started, Zade fell with all his might on the edge of the bathtub and gashed his face close to his eye. I yelled for Kal to come fast, and then quickly turned into another person.

I talked calmly and looked into Zade’s eyes to show him it was okay. I regulated my voice and said anything I could to reduce his frenzy. His blood flowed everywhere, and I felt I wanted to catch it all and put it all back inside. I wrapped him in a towel like a baby and carried him to his room. Layla hovered over him like a young nurse and brought out her special first aids kit. Kal noticed it was my battlefield and let me figure out what to do next. Zade’s uncle who had just arrived gave him a pep talk and sweetly insisted on helping us. After texting with a few special doctor friends who were so supportive and guiding, a true testament to their hearts, we left to the hospital.

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When Zade was given oral sedatives before the procedure, he gagged for a few minutes profusely until he just he slumped over like a drunken frat boy in my arms. He went to what Susie called a “happy place.” He’d put his hands in front of him and examined them, rotating them slowly like one would examine crystals against the sunlight. His eyes roaming over the room, he asked me to go to the office store with him; he slurred words together; and asked how come we got back to our home so fast.

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Four uncomfortable, scary steps and nearly 3 hours later, Zade was totally restrained, wrapped in a white sheet and a papoose, a blue flapped straight jacket. He looked coffined, and it was horrifying despite its logic.  The nurse held his head and Kal bent over Zade’s little boy body. A memory of Kal holding onto my leg when Zade was born passed over my eyes. I cupped the top of Zade’s feet, the only skin visible—even his head was covered in a blue sterile cloth. Layla, my amethyst, refused to leave the room and cried for her brother while standing on her toes to see the doctor with needle and thread. She wanted to see every step, just like the last time Zade got stitches. She even got mad at us for not moving over so she’d have a better angle.

Zade cried out for help from both Kal and me. He tore our hearts when he shouted, “I’m going to die, Mama!” and “They are breaking me!” He begged Kal to get them to stop. It was the most counterintuitive moment. Zade didn’t see my face then, so I looked down at Layla and broke down and hated myself so much for his pain. Like always, I felt she could handle my real emotions. We were palms matching on a window in that small ER room.

When it was all done and Zade had red syrup from his Popsicle on the tip of his nose and around his mouth, Layla said, “Wow, Zade. I don’t know how you did all that.” Kal nabbed a wheelchair rebelliously and rolled them out, racing them through the dark parking lot. Finally, Zade and Layla were with each other again, kids asking about ice cream, and the ordeal was over.

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We stopped at Waffle House on the way home. The kids and I stayed in the car while Kal got two waffles for Zade. Zade was still drunk off his medicine and looked as wobbly as the young guys taking tabasco shots inside. The night ended for the kids with myriad maple kisses. I lay in bed dead to the world but still awake for a few hours unable to sleep.

Tonight my parents came over to bring get well gifts for the kids. After a quick recap, I didn’t focus on anything that wasn’t funny. We got through it. It’s already become a story now of the time when Zade got that scar on his face. You can’t be badass without at least one of those, right? Most importantly though, even while we were at the hospital, we held steadfast awareness that so many kids endure so much more, a thought that is even more nauseating when a fraction of that misfortune happens to your own child.

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Instead, the kids played with new toys around citronella candles on the porch as we all rocked back and forth, arching from one conversation to another.

I’m thankful that nighttime comes at the end and that daytime comes eventually after that. I’m grateful that patterns exist and that there are things in this world we can count on. Waiting in the pharmacy parking lot, Zade blurted shakily that he’s afraid if he dies he will stop thinking. I can barely type that without reminding myself to breathe. It’s clear, though, that he’s been reflecting, too.

I thought I’d end Thursday with that school routine we’re trying to start back up again, but the unexpected took us somewhere else.

My stories here never end the way I leave them on the page. One story leads to another, each reflection as valuable as the conversation we had in the car today where words embed best intentions and family does its best to somehow roll with it.