“In sickness and in health” was a phrase that sort of zipped by my consciousness when I was saying “I dos” at the altar back in the 1970s. Of course, sickness was the furthest thing from my mind when I was in my 20s, so it was easy to subscribe to that promise.
But here my bride and I are, now in our 70s, dealing with health issues as do most couples growing old in married life.
My wife recently had a knee replaced, and I was, by proxy, commissioned to be her home nurse for a period of several weeks as she dealt with the pain of recovery and her inability to be mobile. Did I know what I was in for? Not exactly.
First and foremost I found I was needed to be on call 24-7 for things like replacing ice bags, helping her take off her socks and putting on her shoes, itching her back and hauling her to and from the local clinic for rehab.
But more troubling for me was finding myself responsible for doing tasks never before asked of me in our 46 years of marital bliss. For the first time in my married life, I had to prepare three meals a day. Luckily for me, neighbors and friends helped out by bringing over food, which got me through at least one week of preparing main entrées.
As for my part in food prep, coming up with a different breakfast, lunch and supper for a period of three weeks I found to be a real challenge. But I surprised myself as I prepared some interesting combos that met favorably with the missus. I provided some what I thought were novel egg dishes for breakfast and bought her coffee from the new Cassey’s in town (because coffee was foreign to me). I knew I could make a mean BLT, and we had myriad types of soups on hand from local donors. I even whipped up a batch of oatmeal cookies from grandma’s recipe, which turned out to be a real hit.
I also wanted to make sure I left the kitchen in good stead, so for the first time in my married life, I found out how to stack and run the dishwasher. I was forced to do this chore since I found myself running out of forks and dinnerware. One time I pushed a wrong button, and I must have run the dishwasher on a drying cycle for a few hours with no water involved in the process. Not good.
And speaking of not knowing how to run machines, I also had to tend to the clothes washer and dryer when it became apparent we were running out of underwear. I was instructed from the person lying in bed not to panic with all the buttons available. She said all I had to do was press the black knob. Mission accomplished. Clean clothing.
And, for the fist time in my marital life, I was responsible for buying groceries. Wow. What a surprise. I bought five things and it added up to 27 dollars. I found out milk is expensive, and I had to take several items back since they were apparently not the right brand for our needs.
I also found out just how many times in a week the garbage bag had to be replaced—another task not on my to-do-list during the past four decades with me serving as the “head of the household.”
While doing all these works of mercy, I sometimes chose to be a bit creative. For instance, I decided one day to rearrange the pantry because I had trouble finding the canned soup buried in the back. Even that chore was quite an eye-opener for this lad. I had no idea there were food items such as whole wheat floor or diced green chiles or water chestnuts. I’ve got a good idea the missus will definitely be surprised with this new arrangement as she tries to find the food on the shelves she left months ago.
I also tried to slip a dirty fork into a meal and got caught by the recovering queen. I chalked that up to being a man, since most of our gender don’t necessarily care if our forks or plates are clean every time we nestle up to the table.
And did I mention how two large, green ferns in our living room started to turn brown under my watch. Something to do with lack of water, I was told. Who’d have thunk?
To say the least, by the end of each day, I was worn out beyond anything I expected.
But, I’ve overheard my wife telling people things like “Bob’s been a real trooper” and “Bob’s been here when I needed him,” and that, alone, makes my extra jobs worthwhile.
And besides, in a few weeks, my better half and I will have to switch roles with regard to taking care of each other. I am going to have some serious surgery and will be laid up for some time in recoup mode. My wife will be in charge of waiting on me day and night. But, wait. It seems as though waiting on me 24-7 has been what she has done the past 46 years, so in essence nothing in her life will have changed.
Guess I was some lucky guy all these years.
Bob Statz is a Messenger staff writer.