Sickness and Health
by Catherine Newman, author of Waiting For Birdy
"Is that your husband?" The ER nurse is pointing to you, the fever-spiked lump who is snoring softly and muttering beside me. We've been here for hours, and for hours I've returned my lips over and over to your scalding forehead, as if to cool it, or, perhaps, to comfort myself. In just a little while longer, we'll find out that what you have is a severe case of strep, and you will swallow the prescribed pills, and I will finally put my lips to your quietly sleeping forehead and feel a welcome coolness.
But for now the nurse's face is creased with compassion and weariness — she is waiting — and it's not really the right time to tell her about your gentle strength: the way you rocked our baby in the sling for hours on end while you graded papers, rocked another baby three years later while you did your anatomy homework, babies peacefully asleep across your broad chest for what feels like my entire adult life. It's not the right time to explain what a funny contradiction you are, a hockey-playing massage therapist, or how just last week you lay your hands on a friend's father while he lay dying in hospice.
She wouldn't understand how funny it is that you gave me bedtime coupons — promising to turn in early on the nights I redeem them — because you're a night owl and I miss you in bed, or how it feels when I come down in the morning to a toasty kitchen because you've already lit a fire in our wood stove. She doesn't know that I'm strangely euphoric, sitting here thinking about how lucky I am to have so much to lose — my rock, my mystery, the love of my life — that I'm sitting here thinking in sickness and in health. I will, I think. I do. But all I can say is yes. "Yes. That's my husband."
Happy Valentine's Day, people. M.