Sunday, 8 November 2015

In Sickness and in Health: DID I REALLY SAY THAT???

At the mature, experienced and worldly age of 24, I signed, quite naively, a binding contract. For Better or for Worse (how bad can it get)?  For Richer, for Poorer (we were DINKS; Double Income No Kids, no problem there) and In Sickness and in Health (well we were invincible).

Well, guess what.  We aren't invincible anymore.

I have just begun to fulfill this promise once again as My Beloved has just endured ankle surgery. Derek has literally struggled to walk for the past year with "Achilles Tendonopathy". This has been aggravated because of a "deformity", evidenced by (and please excuse the medical jargon),  a "hideous bony thing" on the back of his left foot.  This has now been sawed off  by a power tool in the hands of  a carpenter in surgeon scrubs and Crocs.
Hallmark thinks of Everything
With good physiotherapy and good luck, this surgery will renew Derek's ability to walk without a shuffle or a limp.  He should stop cringing in pain and will hopefully continue to pursue his passion for Modern Dance . I must admit over the past year,  he has actually been quite a trooper.

We arrived last week at the hospital and the place worked like a well oiled machine.  Derek was identified, gowned and LEFT leg marked.  He was warned not to ask them to do the "right one". English can be a dangerous language.  Somehow this "minor" surgical procedure was predicted to be "Day Surgery".  I am still a bit stunned at the ability our healthcare system has to catch and release.  I feel we (I) was fortunate in that the anesthetic took longer than anticipated to wear off.  The lovely nurses in Day Surgery finally decided, that despite how charming my husband was, they must turn out the lights and go home. Derek had to leave.  It was closing time. This is not a new scenario for My Beloved.
Such high maintenance

Derek, with Bridget in tow, was then transported to a hospital room to wait it out. He had been deemed "free to go" as soon as the freezing was gone and he could stand.  Well, by 9pm I am looking at a bleary-eyed 200+ lb man, uncomfortable, dopey and somewhat off balance.  Again, nothing new for my husband.

He was then invited to spend the night.

Although this day was not ALL ABOUT ME, I was exhausted and retreated to my father-in-law's home where I was welcomed with a warm hug, a cup of tea and my slippers. I returned bright-eyed in the morning to
Thanks to Dr Kim T.
collect my patient.  We continued on to work out the kinks as this story moves from hospital to home.  We were greeted by Bridget on our arrival at 23 Dean Road.  She, a willing neighbour, Derek and I hoisted him up the front porch where we found an unexpected prescription from the local apothecary to aid in his recovery.

In Every Bar in Ireland

When people hear that my husband will be convalescing for a number of months there is a lot of head nodding and commiserating. There are knowing glances from other women as men are not always given credit as easy patients.  Everyone seems to have experienced a similar situation and provide lots of sympathy and advice. We all understand that there will be crutches and casts and as Derek has
Wow.  They look scary from here.
been warned, a lot of pain.

Our home is poorly designed for anyone with mobility "issues".  There have been few "near misses".  There was the "Basement Stair Scare", the "Shower Scene" and the "Roll in the Grass".  He was not physically injured to any great degree, but somewhat shaken and embarrassed, I imagine that the neighbours are wondering about the Flying F bombs. On Day 1, when Derek finally made his way slowly to the top of the stairs. he fell into bed, completely spent and exhausted. I gave him a sandwich and the TV remote and told him to text me in 6 weeks.


Poor Derek.

Poor poor Derek.

Knowing that this surgery was imminent, during the past 6 weeks, as My Beloved  waited to "go under the knife", we have tried to think of everything we could do in preparation for his long winter's nap. Final grass cutting and yard work is done, firewood is stacked, motorcycle is stored and snow tires are on, salt is in the water softener, hand rails installed and snow blower ready. Derek has also been actively trying to anticipate my needs while he is convalescing. He considers it "paying it forward".  Over the past few months, he has focused on performing anything that qualifies as a pet peeve of mine.  There are many.  He has done more than his share of dishes.  He has done groceries.  He filled my car with gas..  He is a smart man, but all I really want is for him to be safe and strong and healthy.   And I want a Roots purse.   

Appropriate eh?
Early in our marriage, we adopted roles that would be considered fairly gender stereotypical.  We have drifted into and out of these early defined roles as needed,while Derek traveled and while I worked midnight shifts.  Moving into each other's territories served to  keep the boat afloat,  but generally we liked to stick to our strengths and preferences. I basically look after all aspects of feeding our family. Derek cleans a kitchen like no one else. I create the "to do" list.  Derek takes it and runs.  He is a combination of MacGyver and Mr Fixit.  I prefer not to clean the bathroom and he has not yet located the laundry room.  Our roles have been nicely defined over the years.

 Now with Derek out of commission, I have been thrust into a world with jobs I do not like.  It's not that I am in anyway incapable, I just do not "do" any kind of snow removal. I have no interest in anything garbage-related.  I tend to let dishes pile up until Derek does them.  It takes a village for me to change a light bulb. I am a self-proclaimed princess.  So now , instead of my tiara, I am wearing a nurse's cap and  a whole bunch of different hats.  I don't really like many of them.
As Is This

This recent stint at care-giving is not our first rodeo. This "In Sickness and in Health" thing has cropped up a few times so far in our marriage.  I have done my fair share of convalescing.  The most comparable example on my mind is a break to the (again, excuse the jargon)  shin bone, which as we all know is connected to the ankle bone. After a rather heroic sporting maneuvre at 3rd base, I was taken out by a pair of sliding cleats. The rest is history.  You could view it on YouTube, if YouTube was around in 1993.

For this unexpected turn of events, we had no warning and certainly no prep time.  There was no pre-accident vacuuming. The windows were unwashed. Our dirty Laundry was piled high and grew a bit moldy. I am not even sure whether I was wearing clean underwear. We had 2 little kids and we were thrown into this "nightmare" in shock.  After a stint in the hospital, when another carpenter in surgeon's scrubs and Crocs, bolted and screwed my bones back together, Derek and our 2 wee children welcomed me home.  No one knew how to pull this off.  I was the Mommy. Mommies don't break their leg.  We pulled together.  Kevin learned to climb out of his high chair.   We crawled up the stairs together and had our nap. Katelyn became skilled at moving toys out of my path before Jr Kindergarten and keeping her brother from jumping on me. 

Fortunately we had a village as well. Our friends were around. My sisters were wonderful. My mother was priceless. 

Look Who Grew Up.  Look Who Grew Old
The fallout from this accident seemed insurmountable  Looking back now, this time seems like a blip on a screen.  It was actually a very important learning experience that benefited our marriage and our changed our child-rearing practices for the better.  I was a young mom and felt I had it all together when it came to "my" children. I was forced to relinquish control and Derek stepped up to assume responsibilities, some of which were not really in his repertoire. He held the reins, with "our" children in the cart, buckled into their dualing car seats.  I learned to bite my tongue and watch. I came to appreciate that dill pickles and chocolate milk could count as lunch. I had to admit that every night does not have to be bath night. Derek learned what it meant to "pre-soak" and that noses don't wipe themselves.

When I look at the photo above
 (only photo of me with a cast, no selfies in 1993 either), it provides perspective.  As I role my eyes when Derek asks me to "put the kettle on"  or "please bring me the salt", I catch myself.   I may be Chief Cook and Bottle Washer now but I really only cook for 2 and there are no bottles to wash. There are no sippy cups to fill. I am not reading Robert Munsch to anyone.  No one is asking to do crafts.  There is no chocolate pudding on the wall.

For You Kev
  In fact, the children Derek cared for during my convalescence, are the same kids that are now on my team. The O'Rourke wee ones come back and forth from Toronto.  Bridget is Ms Fixit. She has her Dad's knack. She is in charge of assembly and repairs. Kevin is able bodied. He can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He is my brawn.  Katelyn as the eldest is the logistics coordinator. She sees the big picture. She has banned me from helping her Dad up the stairs. If he goes down, we both go down. Kate is a smart girl. She has no desire to become Chief Cook. My role here is small. I am looking after the family blog. I also stock the bar fridge and make tea.

In Sickness and in Health is rarely pretty, but this time we are fortunate. This time our challenges are surmountable.  Sometimes we are not that lucky. Derek's sick foot will heal, his second foot will also mend and this too shall pass.

Derek may be "only" a man.  He has become unwillingly dependent upon me.  He is not happy about this either.  My motto has always been, "you wash my hair and I'll wash yours" and my fondest memory is Derek washing my hair when I was too unwell to do this myself.  So  I will fluff his pillow,  prop up his leg and warm his toes.  I have seen both sides of the fence.  I have a soft spot this time because thinking back when I arrived home to convalesce, I recall that on 3 of the occasions, I brought along a baby.  

How Can I Deny Him a Cup of Tea