Saturday, 26 December 2015

A Stairway To Kindness

Kindness is the most amazing thing. Katherine does a thousand little acts of kindness for me every day, things which are simple and easy, all focused on how I feel or how I am doing. With those acts of kindness she makes me feel loved and appreciated. It's not just acts of kindness, it's also words of kindness, even looking at me kindly. I can sense it all. Katherine says she is kind to everyone, and that is true; her kindness to me feels special, different. I know for a fact that she does kind things for me, to me, which she will never do for anyone else.

There hasn't been a lot of kindness in my life. My father was a poor role model in this sense; he had a hard time with kindness. Perhaps he just didn't know what it was. Even the humour in his home was essentially unkind, that humour where others were the target and your job was to get your shot in. My ex-wife was good to me, at times, but rarely kind to me. There is a difference. Being good to someone need not be an expression of love; being kind to someone requires that there is love in your heart.

One story from my marriage tells this tale so much better than anything else. Back in 2011, ALS had started within me, although nobody knew it. All we knew is that I had been tripping lately, that I was weak in my left leg, that I felt "wobbly". I sat down heavily, so much so that my ex-wife criticized it, say that I was going to break the couch if I kept sitting down that way. She didn't know I had ALS; she did know that I was worried about tripping, and felt weak in my legs. She knew it because she had seen it, and because I had told her. She dismissed it as me being overweight and lazy.

I was downstairs in our basement one day, getting something from some box or other. By this time I had lost my office downstairs completely. My ex-wife had decided that our 21 year old son needed that space more than I did. As I came back up the stairs, I was forced to step over and around several stacks of children's books which she was storing on the steps. She had collected well over 10,000 children's books by this time, taking up more than a third of our home for storage. She was constantly sorting them, taking pictures of them, posting them online for sale. She called it her retirement plan.

After weaving my way through the stacks to the top of the stairs, I asked her if she would mind keeping the books off the steps, as I was afraid I might trip over them. Her response was "No. You can walk around them just fine." This unkindness was not at all uncommon; in fact it was the norm rather than the exception. I can still feel the pain and humiliation of it all.

I see the opposite these days. When Katherine walks by the bed, she stops to make sure my feet are covered, that I am tucked in, that I have water beside me. She knows I can get out of bed; some days she pushes me just to get me there. On the other hand, she also knows that I often forget my cup of water, that I consistently am unable to pull the bedclothes over my feet, that my arms are no longer strong enough to pull the blankets with ease. She does these things, not because she has to, but because she loves me, because she is kind to me.

There are so many other things she does out of kindness for me, things she says out of kindness. She reminds me that I am still alive, still a man, still capable. She speaks to me with respect and honour, even when I don't deserve it. She forgives my failings, never reminding me of how flawed I am, never bringing up past errors to keep me in my place.

Katherine is good to me, no doubt. She is also kind to me, something I need in full measure these days. I have learned more about kindness from her in the last year than I have ever known before. I am learning to be kinder myself. She is helping me be a better man. That's real love.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I've known you a long time, and I know you to be a kind man. Your ex wife probably won't agree, but your friends certainly will. You can't hear of someone's problem without offering some way to help. You share your wine, your scotch, your time. I suspect you are finding it awkward because you are receiving a lot more kindness these days than you give, because that damned disease has put you in a position of needing it, and not being able to be actively kind. But your heart, I know, is still kind.