Sunday, April 12, 2009
In Sickness And In Health
I swear to god if there is a disease or physical ailment my husband does not pine for, it’s only because he’s never heard of it. As we watch new drug commercials on TV, I’m noticing they never actually name the disease. Then I’m wondering how bad the disease must be if the man in the commercial will risk the possibility of lactation, anal leakage and premature death in order to partake of this medication. On the other hand, my husband’s thoughts run to, “Damn, I always like orange pills and the name sounds kind of like a sports car. And his girlfriend is hot so that means women think the pill’s sexy. What the hell, I think I’ll give the doctor a call and tell him I need it. Maybe he’ll write me a script.”
I don’t believe a doctor has actually prescribed a drug for my husband that he doesn’t really need. Yet he has amassed a collection of bottles and brightly colored pills that would make Walgreen’s envious. As best I can tell, he doesn’t actually take all of them. Rather he sorts and ponders, reliving memories of a specific ailment long resolved. And new prescriptions are introduced to the collection much like a philatelist lovingly placing the postage stamp that completes a prized collection.
My husband and I are well-suited in so many ways, partially because we’ve known each other forever, so had the opportunity to compromise and barter until we’ve arrived at a generally compatible condition. But history aside, we see eye-to-eye on most subjects. We agree on politics (left, thank you), organized religion (no, thank you) and children (if they are behaving brilliantly we both agree they were my idea, but if they are being jackasses, we both agree they were his.)
Regarding our personalities, while he might disagree just a smidgen, I think we both know that he speaks for both of us, but I think for both of us. Actually, we both agree on who does the speaking since I am often non-communicative and talking is his favorite pastime, but we divvy up the ‘thinking’ thing. He has an abundance of common sense, I have absolutely none. I provide the theory, he provides the real world application, which I then dissect, analyze and critique endlessly.
Likewise our approach to health and well being is compatible. We do as we please with our diet and sedentary life style, then periodically the urge kicks in and we get serious about our appetites and exercise. Eventually we slip back into our bad habits, until the next time we are roused to action. This erratic health and fitness plan has served so far, although we realize we can’t go on in this fashion indefinitely.
However, there is a marked difference in how we deal with one aspect of our health. Illness reveals a yawning gap in our rapport.
First, what I consider sick, others consider dead. Aches and pains that come with age and lifestyle exist for me as much as the next person. I just absolutely refuse to acknowledge or discuss them, because I think anything I can ignore is manageable. (Unfortunately, I feel this way about many things.) If I feel so poorly I can no longer ignore the discomfort, my usual approach is to will infirmity to leave my body immediately. Surprisingly this sometimes works. When it doesn’t and I must accept my illness, I lock myself in our bedroom and countenance no visitors, no matter how caring (annoying) or compassionate (obnoxious).
When in actual pain, my preferred method of treatment is to buck up until I hit my maximum tolerance level, which is quite high. Once I hit that point I want drugs. Big honking, pain killing drugs. I want them injected directly into my blood stream and I want the dosage to be high enough that I pass out and stay that way until the pain subsides. No pansy-ass extra strength Tylenol. I want morphine, straight up please.
My better half, however, has a different story. Some people start their day with a to-do list, writing down the twenty tasks they absolutely must accomplish that day. My husband starts his day similarly. Except his to-do list is a my-aches list. Not content to commit each tremor and twinge to paper, he shares his list with me, out loud, in detail.
I understand this compelling need to review the litany of insults to his physical well being. He truly enjoys basking in every leg cramp, touch of indigestion, back ache, dry sinus, watery eye, suspicious rash … I could go on, but will spare you the gorier details. Evaluating each malady, comparing how it feels or looks today versus yesterday, noticing any new ailment and thinking wistfully of those that have exited his body is his reassurance that he still lives. If he wasn’t alive he reasons, he wouldn’t hurt so damn much.
I believe my husband shares his aches and pains with me for two reasons. First because my physical response to his litany, whether it be a distracted “yes dear”, an eye roll, an exaggerated sigh or rolling over in the bed and putting a pillow over my head is proof to him that I too am still alive.
Plus, he truly can’t conceive that others don’t revel in their afflictions as he does. He actually pities me. I’m not certain if his pity stems from his belief that I don’t have my own afflictions to revel in, or he believes that I have my own aches and pains, but they seem paltry compared to his obviously impressive list, so I am embarrassed to share. He definitely feels generous when sharing his with me.
And so we sit. Me, adamantly denying there is absolutely anything wrong with me, even after my arm falls off, my jaw is permanently locked and I’ve lost all sensation from the waist down. My husband, continually chronicling his daily aches and pains, hoarding his pills so he is prepared for the oncoming plague that is lurking just around the corner, but in reality, healthy as a horse. We were obviously made for each other.