One of the last things my brother ever said to me before he died was, ‘Get your teeth fixed Kid.’ I’ve thought about him a lot this week as I am in the middle of having my teeth rebuilt at a dental hospital. It’s also almost the date of his birthday and this year he would have been turning fifty-two. It took me many years to get the treatment that I needed for my teeth and it was a letter to the Prime Minister that seemed to be the key to finding someone who would agree to work on me. So far, I’ve had two three and a half hour operations and I still have at least another five to go. When you are lying there, having several teeth rebuilt, you tend to reflect on your life more. My days are usually so busy that I hardly ever have time to think about things. But sitting in the high-tech dental operating chair, made me think more than I’ve thought in ages.
I have never had a problem dealing with pain. To me pain is something that I can control. It doesn’t make me feel helpless. I’ve mentioned many times that I suffer from anxiety. I have anxiety over many things and often they do not appear to make sense. For example. I don’t mind having my blood taken or injections. They never phase me even if they are painful. I’ve had mammograms with no problems at all. When my brother died, I had to have a lot of tests to see if I carried a hereditary heart condition. One operation involved me experiencing a controlled heart-attack. I was fine with this. I didn’t bat an eyelid. Yet I am full of anxiety over having smear tests. It’s not as if they hurt. You can barely feel anything. I love swimming. I enjoy doing my lengths and swimming is one of my favourite ways to exercise. Yet I am terrified of water. I never put my head under the water and I never dive or allow water to get in my eyes.
When I have my operations at the dental hospital, I must keep my mouth open wide for much of the operation. A latex dam is used to keep the mouth open as well as clamps. You are then made to lie upside down and water is flushed into your mouth to ensure that everything is clean. The sensation of water filling your mouth whilst you are upside down, creates the feeling that you are drowning. You must also suppress your gag reflex. The only way to deal with this is to breathe deliberately through your nose and try and calm yourself down. As someone who is terrified of water, I struggle with this procedure more than anything else.
My husband knows how bad my anxiety can be and he knew that I needed help to get through this. Somehow, he managed to persuade the consultant to let him sit in on the operation, so that he could hold my hand and talk me through the stress and anxiety. I was amazed that they allowed him to stay, as the hospital is a teaching centre and the room is full of students watching. Even a very brusque matron was not immune to my husband’s charms. He cracked a joke, and this diffused her grumpy mood. My husband had to contort himself in order that he wasn’t at risk of damaging any equipment or of disrupting the procedure. He held my hand and continued to stroke my fingers gently and after a while, I was deeply relaxed and I fell asleep. It made me realise how much he loves me. He’d do anything for me. As I thought about what he had done that morning, I realised that is what love is. It is not the huge grand gestures that show us how much someone loves us, rather it is in the tiniest of actions that we see the depths of someone’s love. I think that is something I have learnt as I have become older. It is only now that I see what love really is and for so many years, I thought that it was something entirely different.
I don’t like to talk in much detail about my past relationship history, as I have children to protect. However, for some years I believed that love was about grand gestures: buying me diamonds, importing gigantic lilies from Jersey, and taking me to luxurious places. This really got me into trouble, as I ended up in a relationship that was extremely turbulent. For a long time, it was like riding a roller coaster. The highs were sublime but the lows were absolutely heart-breaking and eventually soul destroying.
It was with Jonathan that I realised that love was more about being happy not in the highs of life, but being happy in the mundanity of life. That is the true definition of love: sitting in a caravan on the Isle of Wight, laughing and playing cards and knowing that there is no greater happiness than acknowledging love comes from being with someone who makes you happy.
When I told Jonathan I was writing this, he did reply with, ‘Yes but you still like the gestures of love, especially on Valentine’s Day and your birthday and on Mother’s Day and at Christmas and on our anniversary….” I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that this is true. I do still like to receive nice gifts on such occasions. But Jonathan spoils me immensely. This morning he bought me a bottle of violet gin as I tried some last week and really loved the taste. He also bought me a frankincense candle since he knows how much I love the scent of frankincense. As much as I love all these things, it is really the simple gestures that show me how much he loves me. Holding my hand at night when we are watching television, making me a pot of coffee to wake up to, taking me to see things that I want to see, and holding my hand when I need calming down during an operation.
It’s taken me nearly fifty years to realise it but that is what true love is. Thanks Jonny.