This last weekend, Husband's back spasmed and tightened so badly he could hardly move. Saturday morning he should've known it was coming. He awoke stiff and slightly spasmed already, but he went to his usual rough and tumble tennis clinic anyway. These people, ex-pros and college stars, do not mess around, and he came home early, the bottom of his back petrified into stone. He grimaced and limped and moaned. My first reaction was not to rush to his ailing aid, but to internally roll my eyes. Terrible, I know. I just have not learned how to sensitively deal with injury or sickness. It's like I'm unable. My instinctual reaction has always been the internal head swivel with this echo'ing through my head: "If I gotta be an ox and stay up for everything, so does everybody else goddamn it."
That's not loving, is it? That's not right. I'm not right. But I can't help it! I suck.
Husband and I had plans to go out to dinner with friends on Saturday night -- which we hardly ever do -- and he made a gallant effort to keep the date. One of his best friends was on this side of town with his new girlfriend, and pain be damned, Husband would not miss that scene for nothing if only for the slightest hope of some drama and good laughs. He was in pain, I'm sure of it, but if he wasn't showing it, I wasn't acknowledging it. Not because I was thinking that we never go out, really, so let me ignore his pain so I can have a date -- no, that wasn't it. It's just that I have deprogrammed myself from absorbing an another adult's pain or taking on a grown up's stuff or sympathizing much at all. For Maya and Mina, I would have swapped out my own back for their hurting one in a heartbeat, but since Husband is a grown adult I automatically feel any adult should be able to handle their own shit the same way I do, which is a lot.
I suck hard. Because I don't know back pain. I KNOW, I KNOW it's debilitating and terrible and blah blah blah. I've heard. I know. I just suck. Very hard.
So, we're at the restaurant laughing and having a good time with two other couples. Both of the men, Husband's good friends, are former top athletes and when they heard that Husband's back was jacked, these two huge guys became the sweetest nursemaids on Planet Earth. They know back pain. They understood what he was feeling. We had to wait thirty minutes for our table and these guys scrambled around an extremely crowded bar to get him a chair so he could rest his weary back. I was thinking, You guys keep at it. Barkeep, another drink! Because I'm mean. The chair, positioned directly in the traffic of the packed restaurant/bar, helped Husband. He was propped up on his haunches a bit, trying not to grimace and when I saw him like that I felt badly. I came over and rubbed the top of his back. "You ok?" I said, sincerely. "Yea," he said, which relieved me. Maybe he just knows I'm an asshole. During dinner, it got worse with each passing minute and by the end, the guys had to help him up out of the booth and help him into the car. They gave me instructions: "When you get home, you have to stand on his back, ok? You have to dig your elbows into him to help release this. You have to." I said, "Ok, ok, I will." Maybe they all know I'm a big jerk off.
Getting him up the stairs to our apartment was hairy. I had heels on -- which I practically never wear -- and there was one real moment where we both weren't sure if he was going to make it. At one point it looked like he might fall. Interestingly, in that split second, I felt no bitterness or anything other than I would catch him if he fell. I would have, I know it. Or maybe I would have provided a soft landing for him, but I either way I would've not let him go down. I sincerely felt that because I'm not entirely an evil wife. He made it up into the house, and I got his shoes and clothes off and I walked on his back and dug my elbows into the stone muscles and got him advil and a pack of frozen peas and tucked him in and felt his forehead and wished away all his pain.
For the remainder of the three-day weekend, he stayed in bed with a heating pad and ice packs and his TV and his Grand Theft Auto IV. And I went about my regular ox-like business.
When I was eight months pregnant with Mina, we lived on the third floor of a stair-only apartment building. Maya was three, almost four, and I was working my ass off managing an international purchasing team of twelve people for a top ten semiconductor broker. This is about when Husband nicknamed me The Ox. Put anything on my back; I'll be able to handle it. So, when I was eight months pregnant, Husband decided to break his ankle playing basketball at our gym. He called me from his cell phone on the floor of the basketball court and told me that he had really hurt himself. His voice was whispery and strained, and I was all, "Yea, ok," in a flat tone. Then I realized he was being lifted onto a gurney and shuttled to an ambulance. I scolded myself for being such a jerk. He came home after surgery and parked himself on the couch with painkillers and bedding. The very next day, our beloved cat Puffy broke his hip in a mysterious home-alone accident. I carted his ass to the animal emergency center, stayed there until one in the morning for his surgery, then spent practically the rest of my pregnancy growling under my breath caring for two invalids and carting a wild toddler and groceries and all kinds of shit up and down three flights of stairs after nine to ten hours of work. Ooo, I was hot. I mourned pregnant pampering and I still pout about it to this day.
So, Husband's been sleeping on the floor since Tuesday saying that he has finally found some back-pain relief on the hard surface, and he's been cursing our soft bed ever since. This makes me nervous. I can't begin to explain how much I love our bed. It's not all-the-way soft like a marshmallow or anything, but it has that buttery pillow-top layer. That beautiful just-soft-enoughness that gives me joy each night. It's the most comfortable bed I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and now Husband is making crazy talk about getting rid of it. I said, "Why don't we get one of those old-people beds, where one half goes up and one half goes down, and one half is all hard, and one half has the pillow-top goodness?" He contemplated. "Then we can get you a hospital tray that rolls over your side and you and stay there day and night and play video games." He looked at me. "Or, let's get you a plywood board and just lay it on your half." Hell no, he said. Please god, don't let him chuck my bed. He can keep his broke-back ass on the floor!
As much as I love the bed, I'm a tad bit torn about hogging it all to myself. I do miss him in it. I really do. The radiation of presence. His smell. Midnight handholding. Sunrise spooning. Our dog, Lupe showed concern the first couple days about Husband sleeping on the floor. She would sit on his half of the bed and not lie down and just look at me like, Why'd you kick Papi out of the bed? And I was all, "Lupe, Mami and Papi are fine. Don't worry. He just tweaked his back. We're fine" which did the trick because she hasn't worried since.
I guess I would give up my bed if it would make Husband feel better. I would replace my soft, sweet refuge of a bed with a floor-like piece of hell so I could get him back sleeping close to me. I would. But if he asks me to assemble the new bed by myself because his back hurts, I will kick his living ass to the couch for the summer.
Power to the Peachful
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