I waited until after dark that February night. Past midnight. Double checked my wallet for my driverís license. My face felt hot. Mom had told me never to smoke or drink beer. This was different. No one would ever know except my friend Tom. I was 18 and I could do whatever I wanted.
The clerk with the big beer belly and smelly breath took my money. I never looked up. He didnít ask for ID, just grunted and handed me my magazine.
I stumbled, almost falling, fearing that my mother or someone from church would see me as I rushed to Tomís car.
ďHurry, show me the centerfold,Ē Tom exclaimed.
Looking back, more than 40 years later, I find myself laughing at how cool I thought I was that night. But buying an adult menís magazine doesnít make one an adult. Nor does becoming a husband or father necessarily.
It was my wife who was faithful to our vows while I experimented with the world that I had been sheltered from as a child. It was my wife who spent hours assisting our daughter with homework as I sought riches. And as I slept off a hangover, it was my wife who was teaching our daughter about Jesus in Sunday School.
I found Jesus too. Became a true disciple. Volunteered at the food pantry. Visited the sick. Taught inmates about Godís forgiving love. Then I slid all the way back to worldly pursuits.
But during those years, it was my wife who kept us together. She fed our family. Nursed our daughter to health. Taught her right from wrong.
I mistakenly believed I had been head of the family those many years. That my actions were those of an adult. It was after 40 years of my wife loving me that I became an adult.
On February 17 of this year, my wife was diagnosed with cancer.
Reality slapped me in the face that she had always been the grown-up, the one who had been unselfish with her love for me. Her smile had masked her pain that I had not been there for her; instead my actions revealed I was living life for myself.
She needed me. Always had.
I cleaned the bathtub as she lost her hair. I cleaned up her vomit after chemo. I cleaned the house, from vacuuming the floors to cooking the meals.
Most of all, I cleaned my heart. Accepted Godís forgiveness and sought hers.
I have wiped her tears as they streamed down her loving face. I have let her fists beat my chest when the anger would overcome her. And I have celebrated with her at the healing touch of God.
My wife is now working part time, helping with the cooking, enjoying the chirping birds and blooming flowers. She is blessed by phone calls from our daughter and grandchildren, visits from nearby family and friends, and peace from witnessing love from those that she has loved for so many years.
It is a far cry from February.
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