Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Hero Of My Own

As a romance writer, I learned early on it's imperative to include an irresistible hero in your books.  Those dashing, romantic, honorable men a girl can't help but fall in love with.  Some skeptics don't believe they really exist, but I'm here to tell you they do. I had one of my very own  my husband, Steve.

Our love story began in earnest when he lowered to one knee, asked for my hand, gave me a beautiful ring, then took me to a Willie Nelson concert.  For a girl who cut her teeth on country music and more than appreciated a good romantic gesture, this was the perfect proposal, so of course I said yes.  A few months later, I began our married life together with a lot of clothes and not a whit of equine knowledge.  Steve entered our married life together with an organized closet and a slew of horses.  We went on to raise three children and too many foals to count, and I suppose I should consider myself lucky it wasn't the other way around.  

Admittedly, Steve and I were pretty much polar opposites. He chose his words carefully, I spewed whatever came to mind.  He was a planner; I was a jumper.  He was also the consummate family man as well as a respected neurosurgeon.  His colleagues and patients knew him as the cowboy physician who wore polished boots, dress jeans and a starched white lab coat.  I knew him as the husband who wore scuffed boots, holey jeans and a T-shirt that read "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."  

They knew the M.D. who could toss out orders without missing a beat; I knew the rancher who could toss a fifty-pound bag of feed as if it weighed no more than a nickel.  They knew the doctor who carried a chart down the hospital hall with authority; I knew the first-time father who proudly carried his newborn daughter around the delivery room—until one nurse reminded him that the baby's mother might like to have her turn. They knew the surgeon who donned gloves to wield a scalpel with precision; I knew the guy who liked to repair fences without gloves, much to my mortification. They knew the healer who could navigate a brain practically blindfolded; I knew the typical male who wouldn't consult a map to save my sanity—and refused to ask for directions.  They knew "the look," the one that had nurses coming to attention; our children knew "the look," the one that clearly stated, "Listen to your mother."  

They knew the doctor who spent a good deal of his time in the OR, the ER and the office;  I knew the husband and father who spent his free time at home, kissing a crying baby's boo-boos and assembling toys without bothering with the instructions—keeping all the extra parts "just in case."  I still have them, along with a box containing almost every greeting card I ever gave him that he secretly saved. 

Yet very few knew about the Parkinson's Disease that prematurely ended his career, and subsequently his life.  For fifteen years I witnessed the toll that insidious disease slowly took on his body and mind, yet he never let it touch his spirit—until  eighteen months ago when he grew weary of fighting.  Needless to say, letting him go wasn't the least bit easy.  All those things I loved about him, little things I'd forgotten when I assumed the role as his constant caregiver, precious memories that returned during his last days on earth, made me hold on even tighter. But as much as I clung to the hope that he would come back to me, I eventually recognized that willing him not to leave would only be selfish. If he could have stayed, he would have, because that's what heroes do, but only as a whole man completely in charge of his body and mind, not the suffering man who sometimes forgot my name, though he never failed to recognize me.   

I will always cherish Steve's final fleeting moments of clarity, the I-love-yous and quiet goodbyes before he found that much sought-after peace.  Maybe illness robbed him of dignity in the end, but it could never erase the unconditional love he had for his wife and children, or the countless lives he saved.  It could never steal the true essence of my hero.

So on this Valentine's Day, I celebrate being completely loved by a man who hasand will always bethe cornerstone of every hero I write.  I only hope that everyone will be so blessed.


Latesha said...

Oh, Kristi! What a beautiful tribute to the love of your life. So glad you had as much time together as you did. Big hugs to you.

Playground Monitor said...

Okay, I will stop whining now about not having received a single Valentine's Day card, gift or call. You went through so much more than I have and you had a true hero who loved you to the end. As Latesha said, what a beautiful tribute to him.



Connie F. Miller said...


What a heartfelt blog and tribute.
It brought tears to my eyes.
He sounded like a wonderful man.
You did not have to look for your
hero's in your stories you had one.

I have always loved any of your stories that I have read. That is one of your gifts. You words weave
magic and bring emotions and heros to life.

Connie Miller

Kristi said...

Thank you so much, Latesha. We did have a great life together.:)

Kristi said...

Hugs right back at ya, Ms. M. You've been instrumental in helping me through the loss even in light of your own. I'll always be grateful for that.:)

Kristi said...

You have definitely made my Valentine's Day. Thank you ever so much for your wonderful words.

Jane Myers Perrine said...

Kristi--my father was also an MD and he also had Parkinson's. I believe this is one of the worst things that can happen to a doctor because they've seen how bad the end is. I didn't know this about your husband. All my love and many hugs to you on this Valentine's Day.

Kristi said...

I couldn't agree more, Jane. A doctor's knowledge can be both a blessing and a curse. Hugs to you, too.:)

alisa said...

Oh my Kristi, as much as you can make me laugh until I'm sick at my stomach, you can truly bring the words forth from your heart rendering me to tears. What a beautiful tribute to "your Valentine". Thank you.

Big Al :-)

Kristi said...

Thank you, Al. It took me almost two years to gather the strength to write about the experience. He was a great guy and extremely patient. He'd have to be to put up with me.:)

Rox Delaney said...

Now you made me cry.