I knew the two words that would come out of John’s mouth before I even looked over at him, sitting uncomfortably on a too-small plastic molded chair in the corner as the nurse cauterized the basal cell carcinoma spot behind my ear for the second time and we began another wait while the pathology on the second sample was painstakingly reviewed.

“I’m staying.”

“But you’re cramped and bored and you’ve eaten all the snacks I brought, and that chair was not constructed for a man your size, and you don’t need to be here with the smells and the shots and the stitches . . .”

“I’m staying.”

And I smiled, and relaxed, and reveled for the millionth time that I married a promise-keeper, a man who would be with me through everything, even when he was given the OK to step away from an uncomfortable situation.

It was embedded in his “I do” on our wedding day nearly 49 years ago, and even under circumstances that would have tried the hardiest of souls, he’s been unwavering. I don’t thank God often enough for that quality.

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When we were dating and John made the decision to join the Navy rather than wait for the inevitable draft that would probably send him to Vietnam during those war-torn years, I gave him the option of changing our relationship since we would be separated.

“I don’t want to change a thing,” he said.  “I’m staying with you if you’ll have me.”

And he wrote me faithfully for the 18 months he was stationed in Panama, always reassuring me of his love and care and the future we would have together.

When we were expecting our first child, he attended the required prenatal classes but told me he didn’t plan to go into the delivery room because he couldn’t stand to watch me in that much pain. When the nurses began to push my bed out of the room, John reached for the paper booties and shirt and pants to cover his clothing so he could go with me.

“But you said you weren’t going in there,” I argued, more worried about him at that point than about myself.

“I’m staying with you,” he said. And he was there for all four of our children’s births.

When there were arguments through the years and tough times and hard decisions to be made and easier choices offered, his answer was always the same.

“I’m staying.”

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This was no exception. The doctor stitched up my revamped ear while carrying on a wonderfully comical and animated conversation with the two of us, and eight hours after we had walked into the MOHS surgery office, John opened the car door for me, as his father always taught him to do, and we drove home.

And, of course, when I offered him the option of one of the spare bedrooms so I wouldn’t keep him awake that night with my awkward sleeping position, he reached for my hand and simply whispered, “I’m staying.”

Vicki Bahr

I'm a mother of four, grandmother of nine, wife of John for forty nine years, an incurable optimist, word lover, and story sharer. I've worked and played at many careers, from proofreader to preschool teacher, businesswoman to human interest newspaper columnist to medical records clerk. Each path has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the warmth of humanity and to hopefully spread a lifetime of smiles, empathy, and God's inspiration along the way. My life continues to be one of delight. With experience comes understanding, with understanding comes peace.