Love and Sacrifice

“That’s what true love is all about. Sacrifice.” Thus said Jonathan Lithgow’s character in Cliffhanger. (Maybe not those exact words, but the best I can remember.) And he was absolutely right. Granted, his interpretation of that fact was a little skewed as he went on to kill Catherine Goodall’s character, leaving himself as the only bad guy capable of flying the getaway helicopter. Okay, maybe not absolutely correct, Big Jon, so let’s modify that one. True love is all about self sacrifice.

It took me a while to really learn the full implication of that fact. I didn’t date very much when I was younger. It wasn’t important for me to sacrifice my own time to spend it with another in her pursuits. My time was my time and I preferred reading books of my own interest, watching movies I wanted to watch, and playing volleyball with by best friend. That was my time, and I wasn’t sharing it with another. But I wasn’t totally selfish, at least as a young man I didn’t care about getting laid. I wasn’t trying to conquer another, I just did my own thing without doing anyone else. I was not ready to share myself or my time. Basically, I wasn’t ready for self sacrifice.

Then I met my wife. For the first time I was willing to give up anything for another. I wasn’t a very “academically mature” student in college. Heck, as far as I was concerned I was doing just fine so long as my GPA increased if I squared it. (Go ahead and use a calculator if you don’t get that one; I’ll wait.) But I came to the point that I was ready to buckle down and take classes more seriously. Then, like I said, I met my wife.

As a piss poor (grade wise) English major dating a dean’s list Nursing major, this self sacrifice came in the form of helping her study at the expense of my own. I wanted to see her continue to achieve something I was so far from. So, I took it upon myself to help her thoroughly study anatomy. Wow, was she a diligent student! She sure studied anatomy, and in great detail. I did this with no expectation in return. Not once did I expect her to straighten my Longfellow. If she kept my participle dangling, so be it. I was just happy to help.

(A little aside for now. I know my mother-in-law and younger brother-in-law occasionally read this, so I’m having fun. I can hear my brother-in-law saying the same thing he said visiting us at the hospital after kid number two was born and I was talking similarly: “Jason, she’s my sister!” “Yeah, she’s my wife, too. And now that we have multiple kids you better get used to it.” Needless to say, my wife was a good girl. Oh, was she good. Hee-hee.)

Yes, when you truly love someone your desire to sacrifice your own wants and needs becomes second nature. You even begin to risk bodily harm for them. I’d gladly pull a Bruno Mars and jump on a grenade for my wife; my whole family for that matter. Fortunately I haven’t had to do so and can continue to enjoy my time with them. The only physical harm that came to me from my wife occurred during our wedding. We had a unity candle , and at the beginning of the Mass her mother took a stick, lit it from the main church candle, then lit another, smaller candle on one side of our as-of-yet unlit unity candle. My mother did the same afterwards. Later in the Mass, when it came time for us to light the candle together, she had a little mental lapse. (I contend she wasn’t in her right state of mind, she was marrying me, after all.) Instead of picking up the candle like she was supposed to, she picked up the wooden stick. Out of the side of my mouth, so those in the pews couldn’t see, I whispered, “The candle, use the candle.” So, she put the stick down. Still lit. On a doily. Hmmm…a tiny little flame sitting on the table with the doily, a highly flammable material. After lighting the candle, I set my smaller candle back in its holder, picked up the stick and blew it out. But what to do about the flame on the doily. Well, I sure couldn’t pick it up and beat out the fire – so I just smothered the flame by pressing my left hand on it. I still have the scar. (Ahhh, my first battle scar of marriage.) Perhaps the best part is the video of it all; the camera was a little out of focus at the time, thus making the flame appear larger. The first of many wonderful marriage memories.

Of course, true love is not only reserved for my wife. My girls are right in the thick of my self sacrifice as well. How many times have they jumped on me sitting in the recliner only to pulverize my scrotum into near oblivion? Do I yell, or cuss, or punish? No, I accept that it’s only a sign of their love (or that they don’t want more siblings). Do they know my love of urban planning, especially the New Urbanism? My book collection could almost fill a shelf, but it was once three times the size. To make space for Dr. Seuss, Clifford, Amelia Bedelia, and especially American Girl books, I’ve donated lots of books to libraries, and all for my little girls. (Not to mention some of the books shouldn’t have fallen into little girls’ hands. Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire ain’t for the feint of heart.) But it’s my role as Daddy to give up for my kids so they can have joy in their lives and be provided for. I’m more than happy to do it.

And I witness this same, self-sacrificing love from my wife towards me and the girls. Anyone who is a mother knows all about the sacrifices a mom makes for her kids, beginning with childbirth. Wrong, beginning with pregnancy. My wife sacrificed a lot in her pregnancy – and she made her sacrifices to the porcelain deity, if you know what I mean. Morning sickness is bad enough, but excessive morning sickness requiring hydration therapy is truly a sacrifice for the little life growing inside you. And after the kids were born, and a sufficient amount of amnesia sunk in to allow her to have sex again, my wife sacrificed again. Not by getting pregnant again, but by abstaining from sex. You see, we practice natural family planning which means we avoid sex during my wife’s fertile period. And she can’t keep her hands off of me; if you saw me you’d understand why. So, yes, she sacrifices access to her hot hunk in order to not get pregnant until we’re ready to again.

One last thought on true love and sacrifice. I am a Catholic and it is our belief that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross as an act of great love of our redemption. We all strive to be in Heaven with God. And if our treasure is in Heaven with God, then my family is my Heaven on Earth.

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