Word up, fellow cancer warriors:
If any of you should happen to see my wife in your travels today please tell her this, “The luckiest day in Paul Bradford’s life was the day he met Pammy Vitale.” I tell her that very thing myself, over and over, but lately the truth of that statement has hit me so hard that I’m not sure I can express it all by myself, so I’m asking for your help.
The date, by the way, of that lucky meeting was May 28, 1989 (which is less than a year before the day we married.) I suppose the first development in our relationship that I can actually credit as an accomplishment is that I fell in love with her. Now the thing you should understand about falling in love is that — even before we fall — every one of us has pretty solid ideas about what’s going on. We grow up immersed in books, and movies, and songs, and stories from friends and family that contain all the instruction anyone might need to navigate the winding paths of love. After I fell for my Pamela, I knew what to say to her, what to do with her, what to give her — you know these things too. We all know the methods of love.
I loved her and (for reasons I’ll never understand) she loved me back. It was a wonderful experience but it was the kind of experience I was prepared for. I don’t know anything everyone else doesn’t know; but I knew how to be in love, how to be engaged, how to arrive on time for church on the big day. She might tell you otherwise, but the whole operation — from “How do you do?” to “I do” played out in a completely satisfactory, if predictable, way.
At our reception I gave our pianist a request, grabbed a microphone and sang her a love song. Maybe you know it. Sammy Cahn wrote the lyrics; one of them went like this:
Through the good or lean years, and in all the in between years, All the Way.
Prepared or not, I was resolved to love my wife “all the way”. I suppose, over time, we’ve had “good” years, “lean” years, “in between” years. Which were which? I’ve forgotten. It’s all one — and my Pamela has been the one constant.
The thing I’d like to point out here is that ‘falling in love’ isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. I remember walking the sands with her, on a Caribbean vacation, some time back and telling her that I’d fallen for her all over again. It felt perfectly normal to me because, even then, I knew what to do.
Now I’m facing a totally new situation. The events of the last few weeks have pulled at my heart in such a way that I’m falling in love with my wife yet again. From the responses all of you have been making I’m starting to think that everyone is falling in love with her. I’m in love; but this time I haven’t the first idea as to what to do. Who writes songs about this stuff?
I want to comfort her; but, so often, discomfort is her only option. I want to encourage her; but there are so many times when fear hangs onto both of us like a house guest who refuses to leave. I want to amuse her, but there are stretches when her sense of humor simply takes a vacation.
The love is real. The love is familiar. It’s Déjà vu all over again. At yet, it’s also unprecedented, and strange, and unsettling, and straight-out weird. I really don’t know what to do. I’m utterly puzzled and completely clueless. Love feeds on hope, but I can’t really picture what that hope will be — other than to hope I can manage to savor every amazing moment that comes along with loving Pam.
Whether we admit it or not, the task of ‘courtship’ comes with its own tutorial. On the other hand, the task we’re facing now, the task of meeting uncertainty with courage and of holding onto faith even when there are no reasons to believe is a blank canvas.
I’m forced to take a big risk, and invest my love in the unknown discoveries of so many unknown tomorrows.
The path may be dark, but it’s a comfort to know I’m not walking it alone.