Love is in a Midnight-Blue Towel

tanyamarlowearth
 
They lie next to each other, on our bathroom rail, one grass-green, one midnight blue. They are the same Egyptian cotton towels we were given for our wedding, fifteen years ago. At the time, as I recall, I thought them outrageously expensive, yet they are still here, fifteen years on.
 
Every day, I take the crumpled blue towel, shake it out, fold it, and replace it on the rail. This, believe it or not, is the most genuinely romantic thing I do in the day. Let me explain. 
 
In the early days of marriage, we talked about our ‘love languages’, and how we received love. For me, it was quality time—meals out in romantic restaurants, steak and wine, dreaming together about our future, laughing at his jokes. For him, it was acts of service, and I had a eureka moment when I realised that my husband would be forever happy if I just kept making him cups of tea. 
 
But life changes and shifts, and for us it was my unexpected neurological illness that turned our love upside down. I am now housebound, needing to spend 21 hours of the day in bed, unable to do very much for myself, let alone someone else. Meals out in romantic restaurants are a very rare treat, usually truncated by my need to lie down in a quiet place to recover. 
 
If love languages were inflexible things, we would have been sunk. Our marriage would have shrivelled when I could no longer make a cup of tea or go out regularly to restaurants, but we adapted, and listened, and learned to speak in the other person’s native tongue. Jon brought candlelight and fine steak to our dining room, and we continue to dream together and talk about art and faith. 
  
We think of love as abstract, ethereal—but it is made of earth, not air. I have learnt to see love in acts of service as well as quality time. I see love every day, in my husband’s bleary eyes as he pours milk into a beaker for our son. It is in fruit fanned out on a plate, sprinkled with roasted nuts; it is in our synchronised iPad calendars, arranged so that I can rest or write while Jon takes our boy out to the aquarium; it is in the faded yellow cushion that rests on my wheelchair.
 
Love is not in the grand speeches, it is cultivated in the everyday—seeing and noticing the small things. These are the love letters that count, the ones that are written and rewritten every day.
 
Love is in a midnight-blue towel. Every day, I see Jon’s crumpled up towel, and I think, “That towel will not dry if it’s left like that, and if it does not dry, then Jon will emerge from his shower to a sad, damp, cold and mouldy towel. But if I take the towel now and shake it out and lay it straight, it will dry completely.” Every day, in the bathroom, I see the crumpled midnight-blue towel, and I smile.
 
After fifteen years, I can’t make him cups of tea, or his favourite cheesecake, or work together in church ministry as we always used to, or go out to the park as a family. But I can do this. I shake out the towel, lay it on the rail, and I love him.
Tanya Marlow

Tanya Marlow

Writer at Thorns and Gold
Tanya Marlow was in Christian ministry for a decade and a lecturer in Biblical Theology, until she got sick, and became a writer. She likes answering the tricky questions of faith that most avoid, and writing honestly about suffering and searching for God. Tanya has written a short book on Ruth and Naomi’s story in the Bible, interweaving it with her own journey. You can buy it here: Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty
Tanya Marlow

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  • Amy Boucher Pye

    So beautiful, Tanya, and so true. Love is made in the tiny details of life. Your post brought tears to my eyes…

    • Thank you so much, lovely Amy! I’m so glad you were moved by it.

  • Caiobhe

    this is beautiful. I’m glad that you love him every day.

  • Gayl Wright

    Tanya, so beautiful! This brought tears just seeing the love in your words.

    • Ah, Gayl – I’m glad it moved you. Thanks so much for reading.

  • Natalie Hart

    Thank you, Tanya. Indeed, the path of love is always a negotiation, always a maze of choices, especially the choice to see a mundane task, and one that could just as easily be a perpetual seed of irritation, as an act of love.

    • Thanks, lovely Natalie! I always love to see your face.

  • Susan Gaines

    Well said, Tanya. My husband of almost 37 years died six months ago after battling brain cancer for four years. Our last year together was filled with multiple acts of love similar to what you described. Oh, what I’d give to be able to serve him a cup of coffee. I have no doubt that your husband adores you.

    • Oh, Susan – this comment moved me. I’m so sorry you lost your husband. Even from this comment I can see how much love there was between you. Thank you for this.

  • Rebecka

    There are tears in my eyes. This might be the most beautiful love story I have ever read.

    • Rebecka, thank you so much – this makes my heart glad.

  • Tanya, this is so sweet and rings so true. There are things that used to annoy me about my husband that now feel like sweet little gifts I get to give him – thanks be to God who has soften my heart and helped me to see my husband as a gift and not a burden. This is a precious reminder.

    • Your attitude is so great! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Saskia Wishart

    This is beautiful. I feel teary-eyed.

    • Ah, Saskia – this means a lot. Thank you. 🙂

  • Mark Allman

    Tanya,
    As always there is so much beauty in what you write. Love between two is a journey; with twist and turns we never see coming but love will bend with those turns and twist. Love will look for those things that will express your thoughts about the other. It is an honor to love someone and a honor to be able to do something for them even if they don’t realize it. I hope that Jon knows what you do with that blue towel.
    Love is found in a thousand different acts that are done simply because you love someone. It is powerful to choose to do something purely because you love.

    • Mark! How lovely to see you here. I hope you are well. You’re right – it really is a journey, with all those bends and twists. (And I think Jon now knows about the towel, having posted it on the internet!! It’s a slightly unconventional way of writing a love letter, but I think it works…!) 🙂

      • Mark Allman

        I am sure it worked well 🙂

  • Tanya, I didn’t know. What a wonderful gift you give your husband every day. I was nodding my head; my love language is quality time and my husband’s acts of service. He truly thanked me once for always having a backup Kleenex box when the one in the bathroom ran out. Then God taught me through your words. Someday what we have to offer one another might change. We must be flexible and always find ways to keep on loving. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for reading this! And I think it’s really sweet that your husband was grateful for Kleenex! Wishing you every blessing in your marriage.

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