I’m standing in the kitchen in my underwear, crying over a carton of fat-free half and half. I’m about to do one of those dramatic Lifetime movie moments where the emotionally exhausted woman has just had too much and she crashes to the floor with dramatic flourish and beats her fists on the ground. But I feel crusty cat food and coffee grounds stuck to my heels and I can’t remember the last time I mopped. In fact I can’t even name a single time I’ve mopped this particular kitchen floor, which prompts me to remember that the person who mops the kitchen floor in our house is my husband, Patrick. And then I cry some more.
I have not been able to trust my emotions over the past two weeks. Not since June 20, the first of several nights I’ve now spent inside the Texas state capitol complex until the wee hours, along with thousands of other Texans trying to block an omnibus anti-abortion bill that would decimate access to safe, legal abortion here.
You see, the fat-free half and half didn’t walk into the fridge on its own. Patrick put it there, when he had a million other things to do getting ready for a trip back to California to see his family. But while I spent another 13-hour day at the capitol, he remembered to leave me a carton of fat-free half and half, so that when I returned from covering an anti-choice National Right To Life Convention in Dallas in the midst of also covering all this bad legislation, I could enjoy a cup of coffee without an early morning trip to the store or resorting to our emergency ration of that nasty powdered creamer stuff.
I could have married Patrick all over again in that moment. I would have done it over the phone, waking him up at 5 a.m. in San Francisco just to say to him one more time: I’m giving you my forever.
As I sipped that cup of coffee, the best cup of coffee I’ve had in my entire life, I realized how much Patrick has shored me up during this battle down at the capitol. And not just me, but the hundreds of Texans crammed into hallways and overflow rooms along with me, bringing us tacos and coffee and his amazing talent as a photographer, documenting Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster. He has driven me home when I was too exhausted to drive. He has listened to me sob into my pillow at 2 a.m., raging with frustration at Rick Perry and his gang of misogynist Republican thugs.
I have not been a good partner these past two weeks. My usually sizable cloud of laundry, a mix of clean and not-so-clean and questionably clean dresses, pants and shirts, which we affectionately refer to as “Pile” in our house, has overtaken the horizontal surfaces in our bedroom. When I’ve gotten a few hours away from the capitol and ahead of the deadlines that seem to nip constantly at my heels, I’ve headed to the bar for commiseration or the bed for much-needed sleep. Buying groceries? I haven’t the energy. Even ordering take-out has been beyond me most days, as I settle for bags of trail mix and Lean Cuisines instead. I have not even leftovers to leave for the man I love the most.
But Patrick has been to the grocery store and driven to pick up fortifying enchiladas from our neighborhood greasy spoon Tex-Mex joint. He’s taken over sick kitty duty, toting our little Siamese cat, currently cursed with a cone of shame, to her eye doctor and dermatologist appointments while I stay glued to my computer. He has lived daily life for the both of us, these past two weeks. And he has done it all uncomplainingly. More than that, he has done it all enthusiastically.
When I think of all the men I’ve dated who would have done none of these things, or only done them grudgingly, I wonder how I spent so much time in relationships that were not about partnership, about picking up the slack for someone else knowing, as I hope Patrick does, that when the tides are reversed, I’ll do the same and more for him.
I don’t know if Patrick bought that half and half out of prescience or love or simply habit, but I’m not sure it matters. The point is that, when I needed half and half–or a shoulder to cry on, or someone to drive our kitty 40 miles to a specialty vet, he made it happen.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude and amazement at his fortitude. I am in awe as I experience the mundanity of true love. And I would trade all the world’s walks on the beach, sunset cruises and overwrought sonnets for that carton of half and half.
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