Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Mistrust of Praise (Conclusion)

"You are so beautiful," I said, holding her hand and kissing her forehead.

She looked at me dubiously and croaked, "You don't have to say that."

Her voice was a hoarse, breathless whisper. I heard it as much with my heart as with my ears. I had waited two days to hear it again, and I was in tears that I had my chance.

"You are so beautiful," I said. "You inspire me, you make me a better man and a better person. I am in love and have been for 14 years. You teach me, you love me, you take care of me and you have grown up with me."

She looked, her eyes uneven, one pupil larger than the other. She could not see me well, I knew. But her hearing would be the last thing, and she needed to hear it all. Spasm or not, she squeezed my hand. Her eyes closed. I squeezed back.

"You are and have always been the most loyal, sweet, smart, kind, thoughtful, generous, adventurous, glamorous, sexy and loving woman I have ever met," I said.

She gulped and I kissed her cheek.

"You are the greatest honor I have ever been given, and I say given because do not know that I have ever earned or deserved you or even had a hope of really being worthy," I said.

Tears slid out of her eyes and she mouthed "You have," then eked out, "You are, honey."

I felt the hot trail of my tears burn down my cheeks as I continued to recall my list of things to say. "I didn't always praise you at the beginning. I was afraid that you would take me for granted or maybe you would take advantage, I was insecure," I said "I'm sorry."

She nodded at it all and I kissed her nose, letting a tear mix with hers before I gently wiped her cheeks and rasped "I am glad I got over it, and I always meant what I told you about how good you are."

She opened her eyes and the strength of her voice startled me. "I am glad too, honey," she said, then, her voice fading again, she added "You always said what you felt."

I knew she was tired and I leaned down. "I love you, beautiful," I said.

She looked up at me with her eyes slit and mouthed, "I know." A rueful half-smile almost formed and she was out again. It was a gentle joke to lighten the moment. I kissed her again and her breathing was the slow, familiar rhythm it had become.

I knew she accepted at least my own praise, and that I had offered her as much as she could handle in a moment of wakefulness. She accepted not my praise of her baking or cooking, which she could dismiss as a recipe and secretly enjoy, but of her.

To get that acceptance and see her lightly revel in my attention was an honor in its own right.