Last week I opened my closet door and was hit with a musty smell.
So I closed it.
I figured some small creature of mine had left a wet towel in my closet. Fishing it out from underneath the pile of laundry topped with a mountain of diapers? Priority #2,437 on my to-do list.
Later in the week I had to grab something from the top shelf in my closet. Do you know what I saw on the wall behind my pile of boxes? Mildew. Growing on my wall.
And then I died.
Because of the mildew, you ask? Ha. I’ve gone toe to toe with rats. Mildew’s got nothing on me.
No, I died because atop my pile of boxes filled with God only knows what (no really, only He knows) sat my cardboard box full of love letters. And it was soaking wet. The AC unit in the attic had somehow sent water leaking through our ceiling and into my closet.
You know that question about what you would grab as you ran out of your burning house that everyone is asked at least once in their lives? I never chose the popular “photographs” answer. Instead I’ve spent a troubling amount of time hatching plans on how I would rescue my love letters in the event of disaster. (You should know that in my rescue fantasies I do a mean dismount off the roof of my two-story house. But I digress…)
After diving headfirst into my collection of vintage dresses to check for a pulse (they were fine), I ran to my bed and started spreading out my now-soaked letters. Dan made a brief appearance to suggest that I turn on the fan to help dry them out but as soon as I looked at him with wild eyes and cried, “No! They’ll all blow away!!!!!” he made a quick retreat. (Wise man that he is, he didn’t push the “Blow where? Our bedroom floor?” issue.)
Anyway, I’ll save you the suspense: all of the letters were fine. There was a little water damage to a few of them, but they all remain legible. I don’t know how this is possible considering Dan’s love of rollerball pens, but I guess someone up there loves me. Or Dan. Probably Dan. I’m sure that all the angels and saints peered down through a crack in the clouds, saw my hysterics, and fell to their knees begging God to spare Dan the fate that would have befallen him had my letters been lost.
Which they were smart and kind to do, but if I’m going to be honest, my hysteria was a full 75% percent less hysteric than I would have predicted.
As I delicately peeled the wet letters apart I felt a certain level of peace I don’t think I would have experienced a few years ago. At first I wasn’t sure what to attribute this to.
Was I in shock? Denial? Exhausted? Had Dan slipped a Valium into my coffee when he heard my initial scream come sweeping down the stairs and into the kitchen?
Maybe a little of all of the above (save the Valium – I’m so lame that I had to Google “anti-anxiety meds” to remind myself that Valium was the name of the Rx I was searching for), but also this:
I realized that I don’t need them the way I once did. I love them, absolutely, but I don’t need them anymore.
Once upon a time I leaned on them to reassure me over our love. When times were hard I could open my beloved box of love letters, pore over Dan’s words to me, and be reminded that in spite of whatever trial we were facing, he loved me.
Ironically, it was those very trials that gifted me with a touch of detachment from those love letters of mine. I’ve now seen my husband’s love in action. I’ve seen him die to self for me over and over and over again. I’ve seen him pour out everything he has and present it to me wrapped in suffering, self-sacrifice, and devotion.
The words that he once put to paper are a treasure that I hope I will get to read for the rest of my life, but they are but a shadow, a foreshadowing even, of the trials his flesh has endured to make my life a more beautiful one.
When I thought I might have lost those words forever, was I sad? I was. Deeply. But notdesperately. I didn’t despair because I no longer need reassurance; I no longer need his words to tell me that he loves me. His whole life since we were wed has been a testament to a love that I will never be worthy of.
It’s always such a gift to catch a glimpse of the way our love has deepened and been strengthened. My threatened letters gave me that glimpse. It was a cool moment.
But just so you know, Dan has already received numerous hints that I am fully expecting to be presented with an Act of God-proof letter box for our next anniversary.
Detachment never was my strong suit.
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