Love is Patient.

By Julie

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I wrote this back in October in the week between Travis’ diagnosis and his first brain surgery. At the time I wasn’t ready to share it but I am now. We’ve never been much for celebrating Valentine’s Day (instead we observe the Liz Lemon inspired Anna Howard Shaw Day in our house), but I’m feeling sappy and mushy this year so… Happy Valentine’s Day, Travis! I promise to love you as patiently as I possibly can for as long as you’ll put up with me.

“A reading from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7… Love is patient…”

If you grew up attending catholic weddings, or I guess really any weddings, you know the rest. We went a completely different route at our wedding selecting non-traditional readings that compared us to trees and made the guests chuckle. That was important to me. I wanted everyone to say it was the best wedding ceremony they’d ever been to. Not too long, not too short. Nothing cliché. Just enough tears and just enough laughter.

I claimed it was because I wanted the ceremony to be uniquely “us,” but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the competitive side of me wanted some sort of ribbon or trophy for choreographing the perfect event. I guess it’s good that I didn’t pick the reading from first Corinthians, because I already screwed up the part about love not boasting before I even said “I do.”

In re-reading the whole of the scripture I realize now that I knew nothing of what love truly was on the day of my wedding, and that it has only been in living through life’s little lessons that my understanding of truly loving another person has started to take shape. My husband has shown me that love protects as he’s held me through loss and heartbreak. We’ve shown each other that love is not self-seeking by taking turns putting our own careers on hold to help advance the other’s. And we came a long way in trust and perseverance while spending almost a year of our marriage living apart out of necessity during a job change.

But it’s the first line that has evaded my understanding most thus far. Love is patient. Impatience is one of the hallmarks of my personality. I’m a planner. I make lists that include things like “make a list for your upcoming trip.” I have a five year plan, a ten year plan, and a new ten year plan that includes what to do if the initial five year plan somehow turns into a seven year plan.

I am not patient. I have not loved patiently… until this week.

Patiently loving your husband means stopping yourself short of finishing his sentences when he needs a little longer to find the words he is trying to say. It means holding his hand as you walk through a crowded mall because the noise and distraction are too much for him to handle right now. It’s ordering food you know he likes for him so that he doesn’t feel ashamed when he can’t remember the word for “cheeseburger.” It’s not yelling or getting worked up when it takes him two hours to get ready to go to a doctor’s appointment because you told him it was too cold to wear shorts and now he’s looking for winter hats. Patiently loving is reminding him in the moments that he forgets that he has cancer, that he is going to have brain surgery, and that he’s going to be ok, even when you’re not sure you believe the words you’re saying yourself.

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Hamilton

By Julie

In the past year Travis and I have listened to the Hamilton sound track from start to finish at least 20 times. That’s over 48 hours of Hamiltonian immersion.

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Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times (August 2015)

That may seem excessive to some, but when you consider that the majority of that time was spent in the car driving 3.5 hours round trip from our house to the Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Plus, Hamilton is awesome so that makes it okay too.

I have always been a theater person and a road trip show-tune-singer, but Broadway car karaoke is a totally new thing for Travis. While he has warmed to most of my hobbies in our nearly a decade of life together, listening to show tunes and attending live musical theater had remained things that he seemingly did for me instead of truly with me…until I introduced him to Hamilton. His love of history and his hatred for Thomas Jefferson (no, seriously, ask me about it) were enough to set the hook and within a few songs he was fully invested in the story and the music.

As I looked for ways to help Travis improve his speech and communication challenges over the past several months, I found another excuse to keep Hamilton on repeat. It was suggested to us while Travis was still recovering from brain surgery that consuming language was one of the best ways to help him regain the words he had lost. Just like children who acquire language skills through listening to conversations, adults with brain injuries need to hear words in order to relearn them. Luckily for Travis I like to talk, but even I can’t talk all of the time (as much as I may try). Thankfully Hamilton did not heed Burr’s advice to “talk less,” and has stepped in to fill the occasional silent gap I leave.

The Hamilton soundtrack is packed full of words. At an average of 144 words per minute it is the wordiest show in musical theater history. Better still, the words are rich and challenging which means he’s consuming quantity and quality at the same time when he listens to the songs. Others may claim to have “the best words,” but Hamilton truly does (believe me).

There may not be a scientific way to measure the impact that listening to the music from this show has had on Travis, but I will say I heard him articulately alliterate the phrase “venerated Virginian veteran” long before he was able to name all of the days of the week and well before he could spell his own name. And the first time he confidently counted to ten after his third brain surgery, it was the ten dual commandments he was reciting.

I have always been an advocate for the arts–even dedicating my career to creating learning experiences in informal education spaces like museums–but if I ever needed convincing that the arts and humanities contribute far more to our society than cultural engagement, Travis would be my proof. Rebuilding his brain and cognitive function began with surgery and medicine, but it will continue and flourish because of literature, music and art.