Extreme Makeover Home Edition played on the large TV in front of us as Billy and I nestled into our new couch. Having caught the show from the middle, instead of the beginning, I only knew that the mother of the family receiving the home makeover had cancer. I didn't know what kind it was. But, as they revealed room after remodeled room, not knowing the root of her disease didn't stop me from crying. That show always makes me cry: Always, without fail, no question. By the time the busdriver has moved that bus, my face is soaked in tears. Billy watches me whenever we watch it, his mouth turned into a slight grin, just waiting for the waterworks. He thinks it's cute, he says, that I cry over those shows. He knows exactly which moments will push me over the edge, and waits for that moment to wrap me up in his arms, simultaneously comforting me and taking little jabs at my over-active tear ducts.
This Sunday was no different. As the parents thanked Extreme Makeover for making their children smile for the first time in months, he looked at me. I saw his grin from the corner of my tear-filled eyes, and reached out to hit him half-heartedly. "They haven't fallen yet," I said, keeping my eyes glued to the screen, "so technically, I'm not crying." But the pre-commercial previews of what would happen when they returned proved to be my breaking point. The mother was talking about her husband, their love, their relationship.
"That's gonna push you over the edge, huh?" Billy said as the show faded into an ad for a new ABC series.
"Yes. Yes it will."
And so we waited for the show to come back, and for me to cry. Sure enough, the master bedroom was revealed to the couple, who, I learned, have battled not only cancer, but a low-life contractor who stole $44,000 from the family while "remodeling" their home earlier in the year. The husband and wife took tentative, reverent steps into their new master bedroom, touching the walls and the new sheets, looking at the art work and the accessories, and as they did this, they cut away to an interview with the mother. She talked about her cancer, and how she's fighting all the time, and she's tired and frustrated and angry. She doesn't know what she'd do, she said, without her husband. He allows her to be depressed and angry and sad, but he also gives her the days where she's just feels lucky. To have someone who loves me more than he loves himself, who takes care of me, who gives me strength, she said, was what has kept her going. Of course, I cried, large, appreciative teardrops for the husband she'd found, who, while her voice-over spoke, knelt before her in their new bedroom and kissed her operation-scarred neck. I held a kleenex under my eye, catching the tears I couldn't keep from falling and scooted a little closer into Billy's chest.
"That's how I feel about you," Billy whispered, holding me just a little tighter.
I giggled at him through my tears, a sarcastic "yeah" falling from my lips as I cleaned up the tears that had rolled down my cheeks. When the moment was over, when she was done extolling the virtues of her husband and how he loves her, I turned my face into Billy's neck. "That's probably one of the sweetest things you've ever said," I told him, "even if you were just messing around."
"I wasn't. It's the truth."
That was three days ago. Since then, I've needed Billy. Not just needed like I had a bad day and I needed someone to bitch to. Not needed like my overly-dramatic way of saying I wanted him around. Needed like Keep me from falling apart. And you know what? He was there. He left work and he rushed to my side and he held me while I cried and kept my fragile being together when I was on the verge of shattering. He told me what I needed to hear, he kept me rational, he made it better. He gave me strength.
I didn't believe him when he said that, when he claimed to love me like that man loves his wife: Putting himself before me, being there for me when I need it, giving me what I needed to push forward. I don't know if I was short-changing him or me. But, either way, I just didn't believe that he was capable of loving me that way; the way that I love him. I always just assume that I'm the only one who loves that deeply, that emotion of that magnitude will never be reciprocated. Whether I thought I don't deserve it, or that he just wouldn't want to, I don't know. But, either way, I didn't expect it.
Until his car pulled into the driveway, and he rushed upstairs and wrapped me in his arms and just held me like that for a bit and let me cry.
"Thank you for being here," I said into this chest.
"When are you going to realize that I love you?"
I always knew he loved me. I just didn't give him enough credit. Until now.