Obviously my wife has “stood by me” at times when others might not have. She has “seen the dark side” of me,  letting me share anything and everything without loving me less. I will be eternally thankful for that, even if I don’t understand it, and it makes me appreciate even more the symbolism of being cleaned and of the cross in the video of The Pretenders‘ “I’ll Stand By You.”

The line “won’t let nobody hurt you” also now takes me back to three different times, years apart, in hospitals in three states.

The first time, doctors thought Joanna might have cancer. As she prepared to undergo exploratory surgery in Arizona, she was treated — in my view, at least — too curtly by a doctor who brushed aside her fears and questions. That may have been the first time that my wife heard what some students have since called “Jim’s scary voice.” I don’t use that voice often, but one student accused me of taking five years off of her life with it when I used it with a college newspaper staff, even though the student was an innocent bystander and not one of the staffers who caused the problem.

The second hospital memory actually involved both Joanna and me as concerned and fearful Idaho grandparents. Our then-baby granddaughter became ill and had to be given emergency-room shots in both of her tiny legs. I held Brooke down as Joanna cried; we both wished we could be the ones enduring the pain that a baby couldn’t possibly have understood.

The third experience came in Spokane, when my wife was about to undergo a spinal tap. Having had the same procedure as a small girl with polio, when a needle broke off in her spine, she remembered it as one of one of the most terrifying and painful experiences of her life. When she went through it as an adult, I stood next to her, holding both of her hands in mine and talking softly to her throughout the procedure. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more in love with — or more trusted by — my wife than I did then.

“I’ll Stand By You” lyrics here, with video below.

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