Most people don't know that my wife has had lupus for about 30 years. That's what makes the illness so fucking tricky. Like most autoimmune diseases, it's practically invisible. How do you see body aches or hear inflammation? My wife is the strongest person I know. She's also the most selfless. Too often, I forget that she's sick because she never complains. That's what she wants, I'm sure. She doesn't want anyone treating her differently or lowering their expectations of her. She feels guilty because she's sick (which is crazy, of course).
I remember when she first told me she had lupus. We were driving in my old Dodge Ram (which wasn't so old at the time) to the Arby's near 99th in Bell in West Phoenix for a quick sandwich. We had been dating for at least a month. She asked, "Ever heard of lupus?" It was kind of random, but not odd. We talked about everything. Still do. I told her, "Yes, actually. My mom's aunt had it. She died a few years ago. She was only 50 or something like that. We used to call her Millie Rockefeller because - " My wife nodded and interrupted (which she seldom does), "Well, I have it."
Here's what I think: my wife knew we were at the tipping point in our relationship where we were about to get serious, so she figured she had better throw that out there to see if it would scare me off. It didn't.
"Aunt Millie," I replied without missing a beat. "Aunt Millie, you see, one time, she took my brothers and me out for pizza …" and then I finished the story of how after my older brother ate so many slices at the pizzeria she told him he had better slow the fuck down because she didn't have enough money to buy us another pie. "I'm not Millie Rockefeller!" she yelled in a very loud, Italian way. We laughed. I don't remember much about her anymore, except that she looked and acted a lot like my grandfather, who was totally fucking hilarious, so we loved her.
Honestly, it didn't matter what my wife would've told me in the truck that day. I knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together from the very first conversation we ever had.
Today's Mother's Day. My wife gave me the gift of children. Without them, I wouldn't be able to breathe or even know that I'm alive, really. I'm sure my wife realizes I would take the illness away from her and keep it for myself if I could, but life doesn't work that way. We're played the hand we're dealt. About 15 years ago, when my wife was pregnant with our son, they started treating lupus patients with Plaquenil, a miracle drug first used to fight malaria. I can go on about our relationship, and about all my wife endured as an adolescent (she was a Make-A-Wish child, if that gives you any idea), and maybe I will someday, but for now, let me just say I'm grateful for that drug because, although not a cure, it's certainly made my wife's life easier.