Friday, November 5, 2010

Love Is...

Dr. Jasmine had gone from having her hands elbow deep in some sick child's mouth to being elbow deep in a rice cooker. She prepared dinner for our team of nearly twenty every night. Breakfast and lunch too. It was like she was a compulsive caretaker in desperate need of a 12-step program or something. But, honestly, her care wasn't compulsive so much as it was compassion.

"Honey, why don't you sit down? Eat something. Let me get you a drink." I don't know which Eugenio, Jasmine or Arnel, said it because they were both saying it all the time. One would be up and about and the other would be trying to sit them down. Then they'd switch. It was as if they had written into their marriage vows twenty-plus years ago the promise to love, honor, and cherish everybody, not just each other. Their giving seemed to know little bounds, and their biggest bickers seemed to be about how one should let the other give more. I'd never seen anything like them.

I'd come to Haiti with a big, but somewhat bruised heart. I'd been married before and it looked nothing like the Eugenio's. My ex-husband struggled with addiction and demons from his childhood that made him like to hit people, including me, more than help people. We'd divorced six years ago and I'd worked hard to let God heal those wounds. The bruises on my heart today were only two years old and left by a sweet and charmingly ordinary man whom I had loved extraordinarily. He had never hit me or even raised his voice at me, but had promised to love me forever as my husband and then broke me and our engagement less than a month after his proposal of marriage. Here I was, in Haiti, doing real work that really mattered and, I'm embarrassed to admit, I still missed the love of my life.

My ex-fiance came from a family of Jamaican nurses. Hardworking, committed, kind-hearted people. He had gotten into finance and mortgages, but had a heart and mind for science. His face used to light up like the aurora borealis when he would talk about the workings of the human body. I once got him a fancy anatomy book from Barnes and Noble; I think that was the beginning of his falling in love with me. But, now, it had been two years since he'd love me. We still emailed a bit. I had even spoken to him on the phone not too long before I left for Haiti. I knew he had gone back to school to be a nurse and, after having received a hefty raise and promotion in his finance job, was now trying to decide if he should continue on the path of medicine or finish business school. I had always encouraged him to pursue science. I had no idea whether he really knew what he was talking about when he talked about science, but I knew he loved it, and I loved him and wanted him to be happy more than I wanted him to be rich. After these brutal medical clinic days in the sweltering heat of Haiti, I was energized by the sheer volume of people the medical team had helped and I couldn't help but wonder if my ex would've been as excited about being here as I.

Between the clinic and dinner, things calmed down at Oceanview. People got cleaned up, played pool, swam in the Baie. It really was beautiful there, and those early evening hours were lovely. The first few days found me a little sad, a little lonely in that pre-dinner bewitching hour. I wished my ex-fiance were with me. I wished I could see him be of service the way Dr. Arnel was of service to the people of Carries. I wished I could feel as proud to be his woman as I imagined Jasmine felt to be Arnel's. I wished I could see the respect in his eyes for me that I saw in Arnel's every time he looked at Jasmine. Which he did. Often.

The Eugenio's were not big displayers of public affection. I don't think I saw them so much as give one another a peck on the cheek during six days with them, but the love they felt for each other and their family was clear for all to see. They worked together like a well-oiled, twenty year-old machine - a few creaks, but they knew how to get the job done. One night, Arnel was treating the hotel staff to dental exams in the gazebo by the beach and Jasmine strongly encouraged him and Dr. Penn to come in from the hurricane winds and rain that had whipped up the tide so furious and high that the waves were crashing up and over the rails of the gazebo where they were working. What a high quality problem, to have to beg your husband to stop helping people! I imagined what the argument might have been in Jasmine's mind, behind her stern eye and pursed lips. Please dear, if you help one more person you might get washed away with the tide out to sea. And Arnel would have the same silent argument with Jasmine later. Dear, if you feed one more person there won't be enough to feed you. Would you please stop being so selfless? Wow. When did I ever have to say anything like that to my ex? For that matter, when did he ever have to say anything like that to me?

I was a total Eugenio groupie. One day, I even sat behind the LCD screen of my camera for forty minutes watching them, waiting for the secret of their love affair to be revealed to me by osmosis or something. They were just sitting out on the patio, watching the sun over the Baie, and having their morning coffee. I was too far away to be able to hear their conversation, but I saw that Jasmine still spoke to her husband with excitement in her eyes. I saw that at the end or beginning of any given day it was still Arnel that she wanted to tell her stories. And I saw that he wanted to listen. Any husband can look at his wife with lust in his eyes, love even, but only few look at their wives with eyes of awe and admiration like Arnel looked at Jasmine. They were Corinthians 13 in living color...patient, kind, no trace of envy or boasting or pride...just love.

I learned a lot from the Eugenio's. Dr. Jasmine taught me how to keep the snakes away and Dr. Arnel taught me what to look for in a husband - a man who loves only God more than he loves you. I left them to their coffee, and gave them their privacy on the patio, no longer wishing my ex was with me, instead wondering what if he had not been the love of my life afterall, just the love of my life so far? What and who did God still have in store for me? I wonder. But what I know that I know is that God has ordained and blessed what the Eugenio's have and I thank them for showing me what love truly is.

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