Perceptions change with time. At the age of 22 I thought romance was about meeting Mr Right in a beautiful cafe in some exotic location. At least Mills & Boons seemed to suggest that was romance. I had not seriously thought about the matter much since I was convinced that I was too young for looking for Mr Right.
My ideas on romance changed drastically, when I was able to witness for over 3 years, my father-in-law taking care of his wife.
They had come to our home for my daughter's birth. When my daughter was 20 days old, my mother-in-law suffered from a severe stroke. She would not talk for the next three and a half years. For many months she could not eat. She needed nasal feeding tubes. She could not pee without a catheter and ultimately could not poop without a pipe too.
My father in law was a government medical doctor. He had worked in whichever remote village the government had sent him. Never had paid bribes to get postings in larger towns/cities. Hence my husband and his sibling had needed to live in boarding school. Many of the villages where my father-in-law worked had no schools, no electricity, no roads and no running water. Often he would be the sole doctor in the district!
He was 80 years old when his wife had her stroke. She would be his last patient. For 3 years he bathed her, massaged her, put cream on her twice a day, cleaned her poop, fed her, checked her blood sugar 5 times a day, cleared her catheter tubes, etc. Of course we also had nurses on duty for 24 hours a day for those 3 1/2 years. But he wanted to do everything himself if possible. She spent almost 2 months in hospitals. But the rest of the time she was at home. And I was privileged to see the romance between them every day.
Whenever he went out and saw new things, he would come home and tell her all about them. For a few months we thought she might be able to regain her speech, so we took her to a speech therapist twice a week. My father-in-law would then sit with her with her studies twice a day. Sometimes my mother-in-law herself would get up, get her flashcards out and poke her husband till he got up and helped her study.
He was alert to every toss and turn of hers all night- just like a mother of a newborn baby. But if my mother-in-law wanted him to sleep again then she would start B-B-B-B-R-R-R-ING at him. She was equally concerned about his heath. It was very cute to see.
He died a few months before she did. He had lost his will to live when the head of Neurology of the best hospital of Pune had gently let him know that there was no chance that my mother-i-law's life would improve. From that day on wards, his health started to deteoriate.
A few hours before he died, he had seemed confused. We took him to a hospital. They wanted to keep him under observation for a night. I brought his dinner to the hospital. The nurse at home called with my mother-in-law's latest blood sugar result. My father-in-law gave his last medical advice about the dosage of insulin to be administered to her. He was dead an hour later.
For now, that is what romance looks like to me. I wonder if my opinions will change later.