Minor chaos of a grad school drop-out, parenting (and cooking for) two small boys, loving one bean-counting man, dealing with hemophilia, mammoth allergies and trying to find my own feet. They're here. Somewhere.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
on the care and management of husbands
I feel dizzy, the Man commented.
Four feet ahead of him, pushing a sandy, exhausted Toddles in the stroller, I nodded, noted and filed the remark. We'd spent hours at the park that day, relaxing in the shade while the boys played, picnicking on a patchwork of towels: luxurious. Walking home, it occurred to me that dizzy wasn't the word I'd expected the Man to use on this day, at this time. Tired, sure. Sleepy, oh I'm right there with ya. Relaxed, absolutely. I tucked away dizzy, sure that I'd understand it eventually, too busy floating on the pleasures of the afternoon to muster a proper worry.
And oh, that afternoon.
The Toddles had stood under the jets of water, soaked and fascinated, his mouth open with pleasure - when it wasn't netting water. I'd filled my mouth instead with the tastes of summer shabbat: this week, it was Thai basil, grilled chicken, scallions and roasted plums. Ooooh. The Eldest, bolted barely enough to score dessert, then vanished to experiment with hydrodynamics. Dripping and banned from the sand until he dried (somewhat), he then found that the snazzy brushed metal of the park's slide and climbing structure made wonderful, resonant sounds. Boom, bim, bim boom, said the structure, as the Eldest swing his arms, concentrating. Nearby, the Toddles spluttered and laughed at his faceful of water while I grinned at the Man, who excused himself to help the percussionist.
(and was promptly sent away, percussion being a solo affair, it seems)
So, I feel dizzy, the Man commented, and I barely blinked. Walking along, ripe with relaxation and smiles, I suggested that perhaps skipping his morning coffee did not help. It hadn't, as it happens, but that was merely ancillary.
Days before, the Man had felt dizzy - a moment here, a moment there, but nothing worth mentioning. He's made of stern stuff, our Man, and will lower his forehead and keep on keepin' on even when he's sick. I've yelled at him for it, and accidentally exploited him when he's done it. Sometimes, irritably, not so accidentally. The Man's lack of care for himself is legendary among the adults in the family, and hopefully not as well known to the children... Although today, the Eldest asked why the Man doesn't carry his own EpiPen - he carries one of mine. Um.
Over the week, our stubborn, determined guy felt his world teeter, then twirl around him. Thursday was a fast day, and the Man felt - like the rest of us - lousy. And dizzy. He racked up some dehydration and didn't do much about it, hovering on the edge of slightly desiccated until Sunday. When the boys and I came home from a play&celebrate to find our guy in bed.
He had not eaten. (oh, wait, said he, a piece of toast. And, um, some jelly beans) He had not drunk. (well, perhaps some coffee) My raised eyebrows aside, it was clear that he could do neither now. And oh, he felt sick. I cultivated an air of mild irritation and pleasant care, and offered him some apple juice before going off to find out why Shaymin Level X was crucial enough for fratricide.
No apple juice.
Lemon slices? no, not helping the nausea. And urgk, the spinning room.
There he lay, his eyes shut. I considered worrying.
The Man admitted at this point that no, he did not have a primary care doctor for me to call. I tamped down on a lecture that I'd given cyclically over the past couple of years - clearly, it hadn't been effective. Right, then. The ER it would be.
Dizziness is, apparently, a fairly common cause for a run to the ER. It can be triggered by stroke, by blockage in a major vessel leading to the brain, by dehydration, by something upsetting the inner ear - or even a canal of the outer ear. There could be a tumor in the brain, a viral infection, or a funny, spasmodic twitch of the eyes that fools the brain into seeing motion in a still, placid world. The eyes move, the world does not.
If I'm being fair, it sounds amazingly uncomfortable. My poor guy, staggering from the car and acting like he had the world's nastiest case of car sickness. He had an unstable, twirling world, and a zip through the potholed streets in our neighborhood had managed to give his internal twirl a nice high-kick and bounce.
So he won the door prize: IV fluids, dramamine, and a rookie doctor digging a ginormous chunk of eeewwwww, funky wax out of one ear. Whoa, said the doc, and carefully saved it. Ah, said the doc's boss, respectfully. That should do it, they chorused. And sent us home, where in fact, that did not do it. And so back we went the next day, this time to a different ER where the Man was again hydrated, prodded and invited to follow my finger with your eyes. The doc grinned, and showed me the slight twitch that was spinning the Man's world round, round, round. But, he pointed out, this muscular fillip should have responded to the dramamine. He offered some IV valium to the Man, and while our lad snoozed, the doc and I considered cheery things like tumors.
One MRI later, the boys were asleep in the Man's hospital bed, and I'd abandoned Cosmo (the Obama's sex life! your g spot!) for Good Housekeeping (spice rubs! pantry soups! remodel on the cheap!). Muttering, I'd sewn together a felt fish that the Toddles had traced, ordered to be cut and designed. The boys had been admired, and shifts had changed. The Man had been lectured on the usefulness of primary care doctors while I made quiet-ish choking sounds, and had slept through the news that, in fact, he did not have a tumor. Nor a blockage of a useful vessel to the brain.
Sitting in the dark room, the sleepers piled on the beds we'd cadged, I began to breathe again. I'm often the only one awake at such times, it seems, standing guard over my family in the dark. Waiting for news to emerge quietly from corners. At some point in the long, well-trodden hours of that day, my carefully cultivated loving, mild irritation had faded. And I'd begun to worry. Just a little. By midnight, the worry had folded itself, origami-like, into a complex, fragile structure as I waited for the MRI's results. And then I set it aside, collected the sleepers and went home.
Why did you bring the boys? a friend would ask the next day, and I didn't have a good answer. They'd been left with friends on Sunday, but were very clear on Monday that they wanted to be with their dad. So I brought them. Because they wanted to go, and I suspect, needed to.
Look! I'm learning so much! the Eldest exclaimed, maneuvering cannily. I knew what he was learning, and thanked the friend who offered to help relocate the boys. The boys would stay, and watch their father take a rare turn at being not-quite-right. And yes, I knew that this trip would probably bolster our family myth that the ER is where you go to be bored and ultimately, fine. Still, I brought them partly to share the vigil, partly to distract us, partly because we have no fear of emergency rooms, and know that we can ask the nurses for an extra blanket, a couple of pillows, and we can make sock puppets from the silly, thick hospital socks. We can laugh.
The laughter is part of the mythos, of course.
And sometimes, we do all of that almost incidentally, focusing instead on the serious business of being together, loving and a family in a place that would otherwise leave you feeling silenced and alone.
The next day, I had a check-up. Women, mused my doctor, come in to the office for a range of reasons. Men, however, typically come because their wives make them. The doctor paused. Maybe that's why married men live longer?
I went home, and tossed my ideas of respectful partnership out the window. Flipped open the laptop and found the Man an insurance-approved doctor of 20+ yrs experience, evening hours, working in a practice at a major medical center, checked a couple of patient reviews - and signed our lad up. You've got a check-up in August, I informed my love. You'll be seeing Dr. Z.
He nodded, and humbly thanked me. I patted him on the shoulder and went to try a spice rub.
I'm doing a lot of cooking with the boys this summer, and they're happily recording their favorite recipes in their very own cookbooks. It's a mixed experience, especially when we're getting close to dinner time...but this spice rub was a lot of fun to put together with the Toddles. We smelled and touched everything, and grinding the spices was tops on the Toddles-O-Meter. Eating it did pretty well on mine.
The Tilt-A-Whirl spice rub
1.5 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
.5 tsp coarse salt
grind in a coffee grinder, or mortar & pestle, if you have a strong arm. Very strong arm.
I dredged some tuna steaks in it, courtesy of a friend with good taste in fish, heated olive oil in a pan, and seared them for perhaps 3 minutes per side. I'll happily try this again for chicken, and definitely for tofu.
oooh, yum, said the Eldest. That's the most yummiest I've ever had! the Toddles trilled, and briefly set aside his current dislike of edibles to eat most of a slab. With ketchup. (sigh) And our current favorite salad!
Summer's Just Peachy Salad:
Like all my salads, this is more narrative than prescriptive. Or, as the Eldest likes to say, it's a matter of food math. You have your basic elements: green + something onion-y, x something crisp + something soft/mellow divided by something(s) sweet, salty, sour. Got that? Right.
For the specifics-lovers, try the following:
a bowlful of greens, preferably one of those ridiculously soft, melting farm-fresh red leaf lettuces. Or romaine, if that's what's surviving in your fridge. Or a mix of anything - but go easy on the arugula, watercress and other tangy greens.
2 scallions, chopped
a handful of pitted kalamata olives (I like Trader Joe's), or some other mild olive - pimiento stuffed olives are probably fine, too
2 rather crisp, underripe peaches
....and anything else you like. Can't imagine a salad that would go badly with toasted, slivered almonds, and this one is certainly happy with avocado, garlic croutons, and many other somewhat improbable things, including (no, really) a scant handful of blueberries.
Fill the bowl, then dress the salad. How? Well, try tossing with olive oil, sprinkle with chili powder (or cumin), garlic powder (fresh garlic will come in with big, heavy combat boots and stomp on everything in this salad, so don't use it - and did you ever think I'd say that?), salt and pepper, toss again. Drizzle slightly with a mild vinegar, and toss a third time. Woot!