A Love Story - Do You Know Something I Don’t Know?
David Anderson lived in Boston with his wife, Sarah, and their three children, Rachel, Shannon, and Jonah. He was a very successful businessman, and one of the rewards of his success was their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard. Sarah and the kids spent the whole summer there, while David usually spent part of each weekend and always came for the first two weeks of July.
One summer a few years ago, he was driving out to the beach at the beginning of July when he made a promise to himself. For two weeks, he was going to be a loving and attentive husband and father. He would make himself totally available. He would turn off his cell phone, resist the temptation to be constantly checking his e-mail, and make himself completely available to his family and a genuine experience of vacation.
You see, David worked too much. He knew it. Everyone around him knew it. When you love your work, that’s one of the dangers. When you rely on your work too much for your identity, that’s one of the pitfalls. From time to time, David felt guilty about how much he worked, but he managed to brush the guilt aside by making the excuse that it was necessary. Sometimes he overcame his feeling of guilt by calling to mind the many privileges and opportunities that his wife and children were able to enjoy because he worked so hard.
Did the rationalizations succeed? Only temporarily. But this vacation was going to be different. David was going to be attentive and available.
The idea had come to him in his car, as he listened to a CD that a friend had given him. People were always giving him books to read and tapes to listen to, and the gifts always made him cringe, because he knew the giver would ask his opinion the next time their paths crossed. But for some reason, he had popped this CD in as he drove out of his garage this day.
The speaker was discussing dynamic relationships; feeling a little uncomfortable, David was about to turn it off when something the man said struck him: “Love is a choice. Love is an act of the will,” he said. “You can choose to love.”
At that moment, David admitted to himself that as a husband he had been selfish, and that the love between him and Sarah had been dulled by his selfishness, by his insensitivity, by his unavailability. This self-centeredness manifested itself mostly in small ways. He insisted they watch whatever he wanted to watch on television. He made Sarah feel small for always being late. He constantly put his work before the needs of his family. He would take newspapers to work knowing that Sarah wanted to read them, and that he would be unlikely to have time to do so during his busy day. He was constantly saying “Some other time” to his children, “Not now” to his wife. But for two weeks all that was going to change. And so it did.
From the moment David walked through the door, kissed his wife, and said, “You look really good in that new sweater. That’s a great color for you,” Sarah was taken aback, surprised, even a little perplexed. Her first reaction was to wonder if he was having a dig at her for buying more clothes, but when he smiled and asked her, “What have I missed?” the genuine compliment settled in and felt wonderful.
After battling the traffic to get to the vacation house, David just wanted to sit down and relax, but Sarah suggested a walk on the beach. David began to refuse, but then thought better of it: “Sarah has been out here all week alone with the children, and now she just wants to be alone with me.” So they walked on the beach hand in hand, while the children flew their kites.
The next morning, Sarah almost fell out of bed when he brought her breakfast in bed. Admittedly, David had woken their daughter Rachel to help him pull that one off, but it was extraordinary nonetheless. Over breakfast he told her about a dream he had had that night, and then he asked, “What would you like to do today?”
Sarah couldn’t remember the last time he had asked her that. “Don’t you have work to do?” she countered.
“No,” he said. “We can do anything you want.” Over and over throughout the day David said to himself, “Love is a choice. Love is a choice. Love is a choice.”
And so it went. For two weeks they relaxed, they were happy. It was a dream vacation. Two weeks without the constant harassment of cell phone calls and e-mail; they visited the maritime museum, even though David hates museums; he allowed the kids to eat ice cream whenever they wanted; he even managed to hold his tongue when Sarah’s getting ready made them late for his best friend’s birthday dinner.
“Did Dad win something?” their daughter Shannon asked her mother one day. Sarah laughed, but she had been wondering her- self what had come over her husband.
After lunch on the last day, David excused himself and walked the beach alone. He thought about the promise he had made to himself driving out two weeks earlier, and now made a new promise to keep choosing love when they got home.
That night as he and Sarah were preparing for bed, Sarah suddenly stopped and looked at David with the saddest expression he’d ever seen come across her face.
David panicked. “What’s the matter?”
“Do you know something I don’t know?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
Sarah said, “The check-up I had a few weeks ago... Did Dr. Lewis tell you something about me? Dave, you’ve been so good to me. Am I dying?”
David’s eyes filled with tears. Wrapping her in his arms and holding her tight, he said, “No, honey. You’re not dying. I’m just starting to live!”
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