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“What is it? What’s wrong?” My knees feel a little weak, and I sit down. My husband has just told me he has bad news. I have no idea what he is going to tell me. Has he lost his job? Is he cheating on me? Has he lost all we own to a secret gambling addiction? Does his car need a new radiator?
“My dad had a stroke,” he says suddenly. “With his age and medical history, they don’t expect him to fully recover, but the doctors are hopefully optimistic.

“Oh, honey!” I exclaim. I think about Mark’s dad, Allen, puffing away on his cigars on the front porch when we’d go to visit. They live two hours away, so we don’t get over there often.

“I need to go there this weekend. Help them get things sorted. Mom is beside herself.”

“Of course,” I say.

Then we are both quiet. I think about my own parents, self-described health nuts living in a sort of old people’s commune (not the right word, but you get the idea) in California. They are the healthiest people I know, but even they wouldn’t last forever. I guess we were getting to that age, weren’t we? The age when you turn from taking care of your kids to taking care of your parents. Or get sandwiched in between. Our son Sam has a wife and baby of his own, so that was off our plate at least. If Mark needed to take care of his parents, we could make it work.

I look up at him and open my mouth to tell him we’ll figure it out, that we’ll do whatever we have to for his parents, and I see that he is staring at the grill again, spatula in hand. His face doesn’t look sad. Doesn’t even look angry. It looks . . . Empty. Old.

I put down my wine glass and go over to him. Without saying a word, I put my arms around him and just hold him. He doesn’t hug me back, but that’s okay. Today I will be his rock. And tomorrow, if he needs it, I will be his rock again. For as long as it takes. Because that’s marriage, isn’t it?

“Come on, honey, let’s go inside and eat,” I say finally. Mark reluctantly lets me take his hand and lead him inside. I tell Alexa to quit the salsa music. It’s not the correct music for the occasion. I think about asking her to play smooth jazz or acoustic or adult alternative, but nothing seems to fit. What music do you play to snap your husband out of a depression? What music do you play to bring the person you love back from the brink?

I settle on 70’s rock, not that it makes a difference. We eat in silence, serenaded by the Steve Miller Band. Keep on rockin’ me, baby.

If only.

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