Puff Daddy

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The spouse is tough.

And stubborn.

Drawing from a menu of punishing mountain bike rides, power tool projects, heavy lifting–plus a litany of other sketchy activities most rational people avoid–this guy regularly attacks his protective coating, limbs, face, whichever part happens to be handy. It’s not unusual to point out a bruise the size of an eggplant, a mysterious swelling, or a bloody gash and watch him strain to recall its antecedent. Pain and injuries happen frequently, and the spouse just plows ahead, ho hum. Very occasionally–if a laceration is deep and dirty enough–he might swing by the hospital, because no one likes to take a Brillo pad to their own raw flesh. Only after stopping for a milkshake and fries, however. “Who wants to wait around in ER on an empty stomach?” he explained.

In his eyes, medical assistance is a nuisance to be avoided whenever possible. He once waited so long to call a doctor, and was so ridiculously cavalier about his symptoms, that by the time his appointment rolled around, the doctor took one look at him and sent him straight to surgery. “You should have mentioned that you’re Australian,” Doc advised. “You Aussies never complain.”

So recently, when he hit a bit of a health snag, I found myself in a bind. How much could I fuss without annoying the crap out of him?

We were on vacation out in rural parts, and I was about to tidy the path to the lake when my normally handsome spouse emerged from the water looking strange. “Are you having some sort of allergic reaction?” I asked him. He said, “Yeah. I think I got some lake water in my sinuses.” He sounded a little strange, too, but he shrugged and continued up to the car to get some tools.

Without giving it a second thought, I raked until he passed me once more, this time carrying lumber to fix the dock. He looked even stranger by now, and puffy. Wandering down to speak to him, I watched him for a minute, pulling off the rotting boards he wanted to replace.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“Yeah.” By now his voice was beyond strange; his head and upper body swollen and beet-colored.

I was dubious. “I think we have some Benadryl back at the cabin.” He shrugged again, and started hammering.

Ok, ok. Play it cool. Enough anxious hovering. I quit raking and changed into my swim suit, heading down to the water’s edge. Maybe I should take a quick swim before heading back. But we should really head back soon and look for that Benedryl.

By this point, however, the spouse was unrecognizable. No swim.

“I’ve decided to head back to the cabin now, to see if we have Benadryl,” I said. He mumbled a verbal eyeroll. “It’s just my eyes,” he said, I think. The man sounded like he was chewing socks.

“Your eyes look terrible, but it’s your voice that concerns me; it sounds as if your throat is closing.”

Calling to the girls—out jumping off a raft–I tried so hard not to panic that I couldn’t get their full attention. Clearly they had no idea of the gravity of the situation, which was probably for the best. I left them with their aunt.

Normally quite difficult to corral, I somehow coaxed him into the car with me. “Why don’t you come with me? It’ll be so much faster.” I probably complained lamely about the inconvenience of driving back and forth. Then, once I had him in the car, I realized I could take him wherever I wanted. It’s not like he was going to leap out of a moving vehicle or anything. “You know,” I ventured, “we’re already halfway to the hospital; I think I’ll go there instead.”

He tried to argue—we weren’t halfway at all, and I could tell he was getting frustrated–but his tongue was easily five times its normal size, and we were already rolling. I turned toward the hospital, but not without some lingering doubts.

Now it all seems ridiculous. In the midst of a medical emergency, was I really worrying about him getting pissed at me for seeking help? In essence—I see now–would I rather he was irate or dead?

We walked into Urgent Care, the spouse’s eyes disappearing like two pissholes in the snow. “Um heffng a theveer ahluhgish ryeassion,” he announced. The intake nurse blinked once, looked at me, and pointed down the hall. “That way to emergency,” she said calmly. My first thought was: Thank god. Validation!

We didn’t fill out any paperwork or even make introductions before the wheels started turning. Medical personnel took one look and—all rooms being full–put him on a gurney in the hallway. A crew of four hovered and circled with an endless series of injections and an IV.

Sock Tongue said, “What am I? A pincushion?” It came out: “Wuddammiuhpuhncshnn?”

As the only one who understood him, I got shocked scowls from the doctors for laughing at such a grave situation, but I was thankful for an expression of levity from a man who might have died.

At last, one of the doctors turned to me. “You’re his call button,” she said, so the two of us loitered in the emergency room hallway for the next three hours, both wrapped in sterile blankets against the chill and the unknown. As time ticked on, the spouse looked less like an enflamed Michelin man and more like some distant, swollen relative. His blood pressure stabilized. The visiting doctors and nurses fussed less frequently; even smiled now and then. We picked up an epi pen—a new and permanent accessory due to some unknown allergen. With that in hand, plus the loathsome Prednisone and a boatload of Benadryl, we made our way back to the cabin, where my mom was hosting a strange little dinner party in full swing. Poor timing. What I wanted to do was hold the spouse and weep a little with gratitude. Instead, I tucked him in with a plate of food and a good book, and went back to listen to some mentally ill man yammer on about politics. “Jill Stein! Jill Stein!” he kept insisting. My thoughts wandered.

 

 

 

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Atonement

It may have been a little unclear, but I was actually happily married until I posted Man Shopping a while back. Obviously, I did not paint a complete picture—I’m pretty sure everyone figured that out. Still, in the interest of domestic harmony, it probably wouldn’t hurt to throw a few compliments in my spouse’s direction right about now.

I would also like to mention my Undying Gratitude that he does not yet have his own blog. I hope he’s not in any hurry to get one, either. Over the years, I have unwittingly provided a great deal of fodder for retaliation.

What follows are just a few of the ways that he generously compensates for buying fröot juice on occasion.

Now that his parole papers are in order, he is the perfect travel companion.

That sounds WAY WORSE than it was. There must be two sorts of parole papers, because this was an INS thing; not a prison thing, as far as I know. Apparently, even if you are married to a US citizen, there is still a boatload of paperwork and a lot of wait time to endure before they let you come and go as you please–which is why I took my friend instead of my groom on our honeymoon.

Now that he has his paperwork in order, though, traveling with this guy is delightful. We are interested in many of the same sorts of places and adventures. More importantly, his attention span for lying around, traipsing about, or absorbing culture is almost exactly the same as mine. We can look and look and know precisely when to leave and get a tasty snack or go for a swim. Having traveled with a variety of other people, I know that this tidy alignment is not guaranteed. Not everyone knows when an intense experience on the streets of Phnom Penh might best be topped off with, say, a Richard Pryor movie and a little air conditioning.

I worried that children might mess with our travel groove, but now that they can tie their shoes and attend to their bowel movements independently, it is actually a joy to have them join us. Now, if only Mary Poppins could come along so we could have a date once in a while…

In truth, we might not be as well suited in terms of musical taste. But, over the years, we have learned that certain music should only be played in the others’ absence. Topping the audio blacklist: Bruce Springsteen, Cold Chisel, Joni Mitchell, and the soundtrack from Hair. I’ll let you sort out who likes which. Still, the fact remains that:

He appreciates good music, played well and played loudly.

Long before kids, my spouse worked in the audio industry, and consequently purchased a set of very, very nice speakers. He set up the living room so that the red velvet love seat was exactly centered between the speakers, facing them, with two more speakers behind. We put red light bulbs in the chandelier, turned the music up to 11, and voilà, the Red Room was born. The Red Room was awesome. It had a great run, too, though I suppose it caused its own demise by inadvertently producing our first kid. That was a particularly great night.

What followed were painful years spent listening to Sesame Street songs as quietly as possible, and struggling to find an inner zen-like happy place when Raffi songs were required. I’m surprised we survived that era.

Now that our oldest child is ten, however, with a blue streak in her hair and a pair of drumsticks to match, we have begun a practice of family karaoke night. I cannot begin to explain how charming it is to see our dainty seven-year-old belting out Hell’s Bells, while the spouse works the mixer and magically gets the lyrics to appear on the TV. He also wins for most enthusiastic musical performance. I might need to up my game a little, frankly.

Who knows, the full-fledged Red Room might even make a re-appearance, though I suspect we would have to cede some of the musical selection to the kids. There is probably a lot more Dev and Taylor Swift in our future than one might hope.

He has the ability to fix almost anything.

He has fixed the dryer, the dishwasher, the car, the shower…He is truly amazing. He can hook up any appliance, rewire the house, and frame a room.

There really isn’t anything amusing to say about this. It’s just awesome.

This has made me aim higher. I have been moved to unclog drains, mess around with the disposal, and even monkey with the color printer. Not always successfully, but still.

Now we get to the most important part.

On one particularly trying day, after many meltdowns, a lot of sass, and a series of eruptions of all sorts, one of my kids stuck a stuffed alligator in her pants at the dinner table. Since I was in a foul mood, I found the harmless incident much more annoying than necessary. My husband, on the other hand, took one thoughtful look and pronounced, “That’s a croc of shit.” It was impossible to stay grumpy.

This man has a knack for sanity-saving comments and for maintaining a sense of humor in the midst of parental hell.

Here is someone who suffered with me through one of the longest hours ever spent. We were watching a production of the Wizard of Oz for the second or third time–a production full of confused small people singing enthusiastically off-key, and mumbling endless and incomprehensible dialogue. To enhance our enjoyment, several lightly supervised boys in the row in front of us made fart noises and punched each other in the arm. Eyes politely fixed on the stage, my spouse leaned over and whispered: “Now we know the TRUE PRICE of unprotected sex.”

As I struggled to keep my composure, he mimed a samurai maneuver, slicing open his torso and extracting an organ or two. That gesture has become a very reassuring symbol of solidarity, and is especially helpful in situations where passing a flask might be frowned upon.

Thanks, pal. You can bring home a fifty pound bag of rice whenever you want.

Man Shopping

I’m not talking about shopping for a man.

I’m talking about man-style shopping.

It’s not like I love shopping. I don’t squander vacation days noodling around in tchotchke shops. Bleah. Still, shopping is a frequent necessity, so I try to delegate it now and then. Sometimes that’s more of a nuisance than just going to the store myself.

I’m sure there are plenty of strategies I could learn from my spouse’s shopping methods–like how to get in and out of Target in 17 minutes flat, for example–but a few of his habits are completely mystifying to me.

1. Labels? Shmabels!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my spouse to pick up something at the store, only to discover that I have to go back to buy the item I actually wanted. Maybe I could do a quick and dirty shopping trip, too, if I just threw random crap into the cart. Scallions are not shallots. Butternut squash is not pumpkin. And is it too much to ask to look for the word salted or unsalted on the butter? He’ll buy the orange juice with extra pulp, though he hates pulp, and it just goes bad in the fridge. If I mention “pulp free” the next time, he’ll wind up buying the kind with added calcium, which he won’t drink, either.

Sometimes the man reads half the label, which may be worse: “Less sugar,” it says right before “than Sunny D.” I try to explain the difference between fruit juice and fruit drink, but I can see his eyes glazing over like they do when I ask him not to put my favorite wool sweater in the dryer. Whatever.

Here's a clue: when fruit is spelled with two o's and an umlaut...it's probably not the real deal.
Here’s a clue: when fruit is spelled with two o’s and an umlaut…it’s probably not the real deal.

As a methodology, though, complete disregard for precision inevitably frees up a lot of his time. Not only is his shopping trip nice and quick, I’m probably not going to ask him to go next time.

2. Let’s buy enough for the Armageddon.

You might be wondering why I have a 50-pound bag of rice in the middle of my kitchen. Well, it’s because it doesn’t f*!&ing fit anywhere else. I completely understand buying in bulk, but wouldn’t twenty pounds of rice suffice? That seems like plenty. And is it really necessary to buy 48 rolls of toilet paper at once? Or 12 rolls of paper towels and a gallon jug of Windex? Really?

Last time we needed more bedding for the mouse cage, the man brought home a bag that was four feet wide and three feet tall. Why? Because it was ‘cheaper’ to buy a two-year supply. Little Stripey promptly kicked the bucket a couple of weeks later. Now what? Now the girls’ closet is impassable because a truck load of cedar shavings is sequestered there. Every time I trip over it, or try and squeeze around it to find some lost shoe, I give it a little punch. It feels pretty good.

What makes rule #2 especially confusing is that he hates having so much stuff. “Why are all of the cupboards and closets full of stuff?” he hollers. I bite my tongue, because the basement full of boxes is completely my fault. It’s not like I can cast the first stone.

3. Why go to the store if you could buy it online?

Left to his own devices, the spouse would buy absolutely everything online. It started a while back when it was cheaper to subscribe for a year of two-day shipping than to pay the delivery charge on the gigantic power tool he needed. After that, he began ordering everything from diapers to a shop vac to wine to batteries. That’s convenient and all, but paired with the first two rules, it means we get a lot of packages. Recently he gave me a packet with ten pairs of extra thick white sweat socks. What’s this for? I asked. “Oh,” he shrugged. “I thought they were men’s. It costs too much to ship them back, so I’m giving them to you.” Yeah, thanks.

I will admit that the wrong pot that he ‘amazoned’–the one we had to store in a dusty pile on top of the kitchen cabinets for five years–has recently become useful. That’s nice.

In the meantime, we need grape-flavored Children’s Tylenol, so I guess I’ll head to the store. Any ideas on how to use up a mountain of cedar shavings?