After 30-plus years of marriage, it’s easy to take your spouse for granted – not in a negative way, but in a manner that suggests that you’re so comfortable with each other that you know what to expect in most scenarios.
But all that changed on Groundhog Day, shortly after Lynne left the house to do the weekly food shopping to avoid the next day’s Super Bowl rush. It was a typical Saturday until a freakish accident shook up our lives.
Long before she should have returned, the front door opened. It was my wife; before leaving for the store, she had gone into our hilly, icy, snow-covered backyard to feed the birds, and fell. Despite being in a lot of pain, she somehow had the strength and courage to pick herself up and walk up the hill to the front door.
Trips to an urgent care facility and then to the local hospital’s emergency room soon revealed what she had feared: she had a broken right wrist that would probably require surgery, a prognosis that was confirmed two days later at the orthopedist’s office.
The injury and surgery led to an extended recovery period that required many changes in our everyday routines. Since I’m retired, I was able to focus my time on helping my wife navigate her new daily challenges, including acting as her designated driver. Although she was pleased that I was available to chauffeur her to appointments and on errands, that proved to be one of many frustrating aspects of her recovery, because our driving styles couldn’t be more different.
Those differences can be summed up by pointing out that she likes to (sort of) joke that I won’t take a turn unless the nearest approaching car is in the next state, and I tend to park in the space that’s the easiest to get in and out of – regardless of how many miles away from the store that happens to be.
Driving was one of the many adventures that I had to face in my role as my wife’s helper. Other sore spots (her viewpoint) or challenges (mine) turned out to be:
• Zippering 101: It turns out that it’s much harder to zip up a thick winter coat or sweatshirt for someone else than it is to zip up your own. Rare were the times when I got it done on my first try.
• Flip those pots and pans over: Thoroughly cleaning the pots, pans and cooking utensils was always among my Achilles heel of housecleaning chores, and it became one of the things that I regularly had to do over, because I never quite mastered the dual concepts of using soap with water and cleaning both sides of the pans and their covers. My wife was fond of telling me that it was her hand that was injured, not her eyesight.
• Folding for the perpetually lazy and inept: I’ve also never quite mastered the fine art of folding clothes and sheets – and let’s just say that my abject mediocrity in that area didn’t improve just because I was under more pressure to get it right.
• Food prep basics: My wife did the vast majority of cooking before her accident, and to her credit, continued to do most of it during her recovery, because she proved to be fairly adept with her non-dominant left hand. It took me so long to stir food in the frying pan and to cut up vegetables that she bought a clamp that locked the pan in place, which allowed her to do a good deal of the food preparation.
Along the way, I did have a few notable “victories,” including cleaning out the kitty litter boxes, picking up the dog’s daily deposits and opening up the plastic bags we use to dispose of them.
But the clear winner in this latest chapter of our marriage was my wife, who proved to be a real trouper. She faced her ordeal with determination, and readily found new strategies to let her accomplish the various activities of daily living.
For example, she figured out a way of inserting, removing and cleaning her contact lenses with one hand – after I failed to be much help with this task. She also showed better hand-writing skills with her left hand than I do with mine, which is saying a lot since I’m a southpaw. She also became very adept at typing with one hand.
Beyond that, Lynne was also responsible for two significant “saves” involving appliances: She fixed our Keurig after watching a YouTube video, and she found the manual to our dishwasher, which enabled her to successfully troubleshoot the sudden appearance of a light on the front of the machine.
So, all in all, the experience turned out to be a mixed blessing for us. On the positive side, we saw a lot of movies and went out for more lunches and dinners than usual – but, above all, we vowed to never again take each other for granted.
LARRY KESSLER (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro.