No flowers or candy involved.
1. My father’s Alzheimer’s disease got especially aggressive in the time leading up to my marriage. It was like my wedding was blowing out all his synapses. My dad was confused, fearful, and unpredictable. He ricocheted from thrilled for my marriage to forbidding me to see my fiance. He would get up in the middle of the night and attempt home improvements to make things nice for the wedding. He rewired the kitchen so the light switches did strange new things and he took doors off their hinges. My maid of honor came up a few days before the wedding to help me get ready. She took stock of the situation, and then she slept on the wooden floor of the storage room every night, next to the tools, so that my father couldn’t take anything else apart while I slept.
2. When I was 12 or 13 or so, my family spent a week in a remote cabin on Prince Edward Island. I cut my foot badly on the beach and then limped home getting blood on the sand and sand in my foot. My dad washed my foot out, very gently. I had so much sand in the cut he ended up using a toothbrush to sweep the sand out, so he could disinfect and then bandage me. Later, my mother asked where Dad found a spare toothbrush. There was no spare, he said. He used his own.
3. In 2012, I was in Tajikistan and a routine medical checkup indicated my son might have leukemia. My son and my husband went on immediate medevac to the American Hospital in Dubai while I stayed home with the baby, to breastfeed and fret and deal with paperwork. I was, unsurprisingly, a wreck. A lot of people did a lot of wonderful things for me. I remember the friend who brought hummus and the friend who prayed for me. And I remember the friend who called me, awkwardly, and reminded me that she and I had very similar academic background. And then she told me that if I was too upset to meet my work deadlines, she could do some of my job for me.
Every day, I do my best to love other people like those people loved me. I know these are small, domestic stories in a time when we need massive sweeping change. But I believe that when we do a good job loving each other interpersonally, it makes us strong enough to fight the big fights.