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There are multiple things which test relationships. Previously Black Love has covered infidelity, children, and arguments. Now it is one of the hardest battles: Dealing with death, disease, and life-altering injuries.


Network
OWN
Director(s) Codie Elaine Oliver
Air Date 10/13/2018
Characters Introduced
Herself Shevon
Himself Jamie
Herself Wynette
Himself Bernard
Herself Shannon
Himself Bechir

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Injuries: Tamia, Grant, Shevon, Jamie

For around 4 years Grant had to deal with an injured ankle and multiple surgeries. All in order to recapture who he was at the time. During that, Tamia, someone who had a career, was early into motherhood by the 4th year, was balancing her needs, the baby’s, and also her husbands. As you can imagine, that stressed her out. But, it’s no different for the likes of Shevon and Jamie. Her husband, Jamie, doing a somersault, nearly became paralyzed from the neck down.

Yet, in both cases, between time, love, and faith, things did get better for the injured party. The major surgeries were over around 2003 or so, and Grant got to play in the NBA All-Star competition in 2005. Not out of pity, because competition doesn’t allow room for that, but because he was back to where he once was.

As for Jamie, his life may never be the same but he found ways to make it work. Through physical therapy, we see him able to move his arms, legs, and he was able to walk his wife down the aisle. Now, it isn’t clear how much he can do on a normal day, but that perseverance from being told he may get 30% functionality to being highly functional? In both cases, you have to look at who they are with and give them all the props for the inspiration and support they gave to keep these two men going.

Commentary

Grant commenting on his attitude after his ankle injury.
Grant: I’m sure at times I was moody, I was difficult.

One of the things Grant mentions, which made his injury so devastation, was how his job, his career, provided a source of validation. Something which got taken by the injury for being an athlete was part of his identity. It was why he even got to meet Tamia in the first place. So taking away what led to their love story, made it so he couldn’t be as active anymore, that was a personal test to their marriage.

The same thing comes into play for Jamie. He met Shevon during a track meet and both being athletes is what brought them together. But then, he lost his entire ability to so much as move a finger. It took 3 weeks for him to do that and that leads us to talk about the women. I forever will remember Viola Davis’ quote from season 1 about getting old. Primarily people changing. You married a ballplayer who can’t play ball and is frustrated. He can do other things, find endorsements and all that, but that is a gift from the thing he loves the most. Which creates said opportunities. You have to deal with a man who has to rediscover who he is.

Then for Shevon? Jamie was said to possibly only have 30% functionality. It’s hard enough wrapping your head around having a child and taking care of them if disabled. Can you imagine an adult? Also, mind you, they weren’t married when Jamie was injured. So there comes that real question of whether to stick around, without vows or a contract, or downgrade to friends and be there as much as you can. Yet, living a separate life and finding someone who won’t require your energy and time as much.

Shevon and Jamie when they got married.

Which, yeah, might sound cold-blooded, but you have to recognize the commitment being asked. That man could have needed her, for the rest of his life, to bathe him, put on his clothes, feed him, likely pay for a nurse to assist her, and so much more. Something that, even without a ring on her finger, she committed to and saw him through physical therapy to eventually walk again.

Really pushing you to understand the power of love is a foolish thing to question for it is the fuel which drives miracles.

Diseases: Don, Tanya, Tamia, Grant

As seen with Jamie, some things don’t just take time and they get better. There are some things which you know get progressively worse or require consistent attention to handle. For Don and Tanya, it was Tanya getting diabetes and learning she has alopecia. With that, her health got rocked and her hair was gone. Leading to him, as a man, having to adapt to a new lifestyle. One which may not have been major, big picture wise, for he loved her, not her hair. Plus, her form of diabetes isn’t touted as something unmanageable. So they could deal.

However, Tamia getting MS is a totally different story. For one, her diagnosis followed Grant just starting to feel better, after all the aforementioned surgeries. On top of that,  it wasn’t like they were familiar with a whole lot of Black folks with MS. There was Montel and Richard Pryor. Montel has been seen as relatively healthy but MS made Pryor seem like a shell of his former self. That’s scary as hell for a singer who loves making music and has to tour and promote to make money.

Yet, again, the benefit of a partnership. While there was some fear, Grant reciprocated the time and commitment given and that allowed Tamia to continue doing what she loves. Be it motherhood, being a wife, or a multi-Grammy nominated singer who has multiple classics in her catalog.

Commentary

Tamia commenting on how life changed when she was diagnosed with MS.
Tamia: Things started to go haywire.

Though kind of preachy, you have to appreciate Don’s comments about his wife not having hair and pushing the fact that he married the woman whose personality he loved. Whose kindness made him feel loved and whose ass was like DAMN – apparently. And while maybe not the best couple to put side by side, you have to take note of how Tamia and Grant stayed together despite the diagnosis she had as well.

For it’s one thing to deal with a sports injury, but MS can be devastating. Like with how Grant was injured, it could mean Tamia losing what gave her validation and a career. So for them both to go through that allowed them to, weirdly, for a lack of a better term, get to experience both sides of feeling they could have been taken out of commission.

Life Changing Moments: Styles, Adjua, Wynette, Bernard, Shannon, Bechir

Cancer, the need for brain surgery, and losing a child. These are life altering things. Shannon, just about 33 years old, may never have children and Bechir has to accept that. On top of that, with it seeming she has been given a death notice many times, that also looms over their marriage. Can you imagine?

How about your wife having brain surgery and forgetting who her kids are? Having to bathe, dress, do all that for them while they are sort of in a fog? As with many of the couples on here, you are reminded what commitment truly means and that marriage is much more than a beautiful wedding day and often a memorable honeymoon. It’s work. The kind which sometimes might be thankless and could be more stressful than your day job. However, as Adjua and Styles note, it is because of that person you feel, as an individual, not just as one half of a couple, you can make it through life.

As I want to say was mentioned earlier this season, Styles and Adjua had a daughter who committed suicide. It’s one of those things which rock a marriage for their daughter was grown, on her own, when it happened. Plus, it wasn’t due to sickness but their daughter feeling so isolated, alone, unable to cope, that she made a drastic decision. Which comes with guilt, blame, and a search for answers. Many of which are hard to pin down on any specific thing and here you have this person who supports you as they can, but are also going through the pain and trauma themselves.

Commentary

Adjua commenting on how the stress of losing a child affected her marriage.
Adjua: And, you know, most couples don’t always make it.

It was interesting to see Styles and Adjua included in the episode since everyone else dealt with physical things. People needing brain surgery, having cancer, broken bones, MS, diabetes, and more. With them, it was something emotional and mental. The unnatural act of a parent burying a child. And while, not to downplay everyone else, you can find people who dealt with brain surgery, have examples of people dealing with MS or diabetes, recovering from the death of a child is a matter not gone into that much. Miscarriages we hear about from time to time from the likes of Beyoncé to Remy Ma.

However, losing a child who was grown? Especially to suicide? Even if you venture outside of Black culture, there aren’t quick go-to guides, for a lack of a better term, to see what to expect, what to do, and gain some sense of hope. So the inclusion of them and hearing Adjua note how it did present a bit of difficulty in her and Styles’ relationship was important. For many, like she did, might think it’ll bring you closer together, if anything, because you share being a parent and this unique trauma. In reality, though, it doesn’t.

I can recall in college listening to a woman, in a Psychology class on Death & Dying, talking about having a child born without an anus. Getting to see, for a few months, this living being, which came from you and a person you love, breathe, move, smile even. Yet, then die. Whether weeks, months, years, I don’t think you can understand, unless you’ve been through it, how such a tragedy can weaken a relationship.

You share a memory of someone who meant the world to you and now they’re gone. What once strengthened your relationship now coerces you to reconsider who and what you are. Because you can never go back to not experiencing motherhood and fatherhood. But, what do you do without a child to call you mom or dad anymore? How can you function? What about coping? And with this person looking like your child, being one half of them, how can you deal with something of them living on but not the child themselves?

Highlights

  1. I really do love how Bernard and Don stuck by their women even with them dealing with such drastic changes. Also, you have to greatly admire Shevon for sticking with a man, even without a ring to obligate her, because she loved him that much.
  2. Shevon, Jamie, Tamia, and Grant presenting how important validation, as a person, was in their relationships and how, without it, that put a strain on their marriage. Yet, with some adaptations, and a new normal, they made it work.

Divisive

  1. I must admit, as important as it was to show couples dealing with physical ailments, I did wish we got a few mental ones as well. People who were married to someone who is bipolar, maybe have depression and things of that nature. To present the kind of sickness which increasingly is being identified within the Black community and how, even with these ailments, you can find love, joy, and understanding.


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