My 7-year-old son, Jeremiah, has been sucking his thumb since birth. When he began developing teeth, a callous started forming on his thumb in the area where teeth hit skin. About that same time I began developing a very platonic friendship with a man I met at church.
It was slow at first, a brief hello here, a wave goodbye there. I'd see him on Sundays and he'd ask how my week was to which I would recap for him the happenings at work, my car trouble, and the "new" thing I was doing to curb my then 2-year-old's thumb sucking habit. He started sitting with me occasionally during service, or I with him, I'm not sure which. One day he suggested lunch after church, to which I reluctantly obliged.
"You know I got the kids with me," I said. The thumb sucker and the other one.
"It's fine. Bring them," he answered. So I did.
The months turned into years and we learned each other, our life stories, sour love affairs, brushes with the law, encounters with God. Once he bought me a gift for Christmas, which I promptly returned. I can't take this. I'm seeing someone. I dated a lot and I told him. Mostly corporate types, tailored suits, polished shoes, a stark contrast to who he was. Another time I went away on business and came back a week later heartbroken and torn. He was there with kind words.
Friday nights when I had no other plans, he'd come by with food and a movie. When my car broke down, he was there to give me a ride. When I was running late, he'd get my children from school. When I was simply lonely, I'd call him and we'd talk. So I asked him one day,
"How come you're so nice to me?"
"I'm sweet on you."
"You shouldn't spoil me that way. It will hurt so much more when I see another side of you."
"Ain't no other side. I'm a Pisces."
Then when my kid turned 7, the callous now wart-like, I woke up tired. Tired of dating, tired of men with bad intentions, tired of my son sucking his thumb. The kid and I had a heart to heart and just like that... he stopped. It can be difficult but you can do anything as soon as you decide to. At precisely that time, I reviewed the most important things I wanted in a husband:
1. Loves God
2. Loves my children
3. Loves me
Then I called my best friend and told him what I had discovered. "Bird's eye view... we're completely wrong for each other, but when you get up close, and peer into the corners of our lives and our hearts, we have more in common than anyone I know. You're loyal, you're lovely, and I'm lucky." His response,
So we explored another kind of relationship and I fell in love with him in a new kind of way. There were things that bothered me but my certainty that he was in fact my soul mate compelled me to work everything out, even when it was difficult, for the greater good of the relationship. If it was someone else, I would have given up but because it was him, I worked harder. But my disappointments piled up, whether it was due to miscommunication, a difference of opinion, or my own skeletons, and I grew weary. What I had allowed in him as a friend, I could not allow in him as a mate and my complaints grew more frequent.
"Don't walk away when I'm talking to you."
"So you're OK with going to sleep angry?"
"I'm sorry doesn't mean anything when you keep doing the same thing."
There may be a few ways to keep a woman, but I know one sure way to make sure she strays: Listen to her tell you her wants, her needs, and her desires, and then do the opposite. I was hurt by his dismissal of my complaints and then one night in the middle of the street, my pain came roaring out in words I still regret. It was a spiral effect that caused him to spew words he didn't really mean but cut nonetheless. My security in him was broken. The man who once regarded me as the apple of his eye, that man, performed open heart surgery in the middle of a New York City street and left me there to bleed to death. I remembered his words to me some time earlier, "Ain't no other side, I'm a Pisces," and I cried for a week. After that, he apologized and he worked to regain my faith in him but his promises lost their potency, my trust in him diminished, and my heart grew hard, calloused like the grape sized knot on my son's thumb.
I took the boy to the doctor after several failed attempts to rub the wart away with a pumice stone. She educated me on the issue.
"Viral warts develop when a callous persists over a long period of time. It is the skin's way of protecting itself against further harm. Your son's constant thumb sucking created the callous and it's gone so far now that although he has kicked his habit, the wart will reappear even when soaked and rubbed away. Cutting it off may fix the issue but the thumb will not be the same. He needs a more gradual treatment."
So she prescribed a solution high in salicylic acid to be applied to the area several times daily, and reminded me that the change would not be magical. It will take time, but we'll get there.
The love I have for my best friend, my soul mate, and my one-day husband is still there. It just got buried under a whole lot of stuff, but I am convinced that this feeling, this indescribable, absolutely wonderful feeling of knowing someone at their core, and having them know you at yours, I can't get this anywhere else. What we've built over the last five years isn't worth throwing away any more than my son's thumb is worth cutting off. So the same night I began applying the liquid to the callous on his thumb, I also began applying it to the one on my heart and sure enough, I've slowly watched the layers of trauma peel away.
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