The last two years have been an endurance trial. Tonight I sit and weigh the situation.
- Over 70 days of hospitalization for my one-year-old daughter, fierce little Inara, who has seizures, blindness, and is developmentally delayed by well over a year. Her health has scared us and there were times when my wife and I feared for her, desperately. Pieces of her story can be found here and here. The past eleven months have been better, but recently her seizures are returning.
- My wife, Jessica, heart of my heart, has suffered anxiety and chronic and excruciating pain since January, a severe worsening of earlier pain. She is as often in bed as she is out of it. I miss our romance, and it is painful to see her suffer.
- There are hardly any of Jessica’s family in the area, and one of our most beloved relatives took the last voyage, this summer. As for my own kin, I am estranged from them. They never accepted my wife.
- Costs are stressful. I am the breadwinner–a role that I feel equipped for, so I do not resent it–but my ability to bring home our bread is put frequently to the test. I am strained by my family’s medical expenses and support needs, and by the additional student debts that have come home to roost much earlier than planned. We have had to place my wife’s educational goals on hold, due to her pain and baby Inara’s needs for special care.
- The laughter of my children and the love of my wife. That above all.
- My faith. That is a boat keeling through choppy waters. The boat requires a great deal of oarwork, but in this storm I am glad to be in it.
- A secure career in the education industry, in pursuit of good and useful goals.
- Supportive colleagues and an incredibly supportive boss.
- Solid health insurance. That matters.
- A competent and loving nanny. With me at work during the day and Jessica in acute pain, and with no family nearby, this is expensive but a necessity, and we are glad to have her.
- A (relatively) peaceful and spacious place to live. We rent, we do not own–homeowning was another goal that the last two years cast by the wayside–but the place we have is a good place.
- Both my publisher and my church community have really come alongside us. Friends from my church have given their time, and prayer, and even made a massive tactile quilt for my blind daughter. My publisher shipped entire boxes of children’s books for my little ones, to show their support.
- The novels and “living the dream.” I have received good reviews and frequent and kind letters from readers. Those half hours that I slide in at lunch or after my girls are in bed, when I scribble and dig and churn through a desperate story, those are precious to me.
On the whole, the good outweighs the bad.
This is a good life, though one that demands all my resources and will. I have had to adopt a warrior/provider mentality and a certain ferocity, because there is no room for a relaxing of the guard, or laziness, or dwelling too much on needs of my own that are unmet while my wife is ill.
This is winter.
I think life is like this:
- In the summer, the days are long and warm and full of life and lovemaking and laughter. The nights are present, but they are brief and hold little pain or fear.
- In the winter, it is the nights that are long, and cold and fierce. The days are present, too, but they pass swiftly as a shadow over the grass.
Winter can last long, but that does not mean there will be no more summers. And I sowed many things in the summer that I have since reaped, and that give comfort and sustenance now: a marriage with a woman of astonishing beauty and a giving heart, good friendships, the foundation for a good and meaningful career, and some training in the patience that I now need desperately to endure long nights by my child’s bedside or long months while my wife lies ill.
I wish it were summer. But it is not.
I am weary, but I know I am strong enough to endure the winter. And that endurance will not be without enjoyment. It may be the cold season, but my house is warm, and it is full of good books—some of them my own—and with the love of my wife and the laughter of my children, and when they are unwell, the house still sounds with the echoes of earlier joy and rings with the expectation of more joy in the future.
Let the wind howl as it will. This is my home, and these are my own, and I will enjoy my life with them and keep them protected until the days are warm again.
Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!