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The marriage wars: In sickness and in health
Oct 03, 2012 | 1296 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

By MARK GRAY

Clipper Columnist

Until last week, I had been successful in avoiding the hospital surgery room. 

The idea that I should pay a mere mortal (even if he is a surgeon) to start cutting on my flesh simply seemed foreign (and, for that reason, I always thought anyone undergoing elective cosmetic surgery was a candidate for the asylum). But last week I was forced into undergoing a minor surgical procedure; in conjunction, that meant my wife would be in charge of the care and feeding of a wounded body.

So much for all the drama; my rehab was not torturous or painful. But I concluded that women are much better at nurturing than men.

Several years ago when my wife underwent surgery, my attentiveness revolved mostly around food. (“Are you ready for real food?  Okay, let me drive over to Arby’s and see what I can find!”) I felt incompetent when it came to removing or replacing gauze and bandages or squirting ointment. I could hover around my recovering patient and turn the television on and off, but that wasn’t a particularly effective means of post-surgical care!

I’ve since talked to many men who have been in similar situations. They agree that they also felt helpless and guilty. I surmise this comes from the experience women take from rearing children. Women are in charge of the Band-Aids and the Neosporin. 

Men are more about figuring out who can take Junior’s place at third base on the Little League team.

I appreciated the care I received, both during the short hospital stay and at home under the watchful eyes of my concerned wife.  I told her I had married a bright and beautiful woman, not a nurse Р but it was nice that she knew more about Florence Nightingale than I did.

By DAWN BRANDVOLD-GRAY

Clipper Columnist

It has been 10 years since we had children at home. We have no grandchildren and no pets. It’s been a long time since I couldn’t take a shower with a closed door or have a moment to read the newspaper without interruption.  

I know when you are in the middle of those years, it can be tough. I’m not one of those women who approach young, frazzled mothers in the store and tell them they should cherish these days. I remember well enough the lack of privacy and sleep to know that most of the time, enduring is more important than cherishing.

However, during hubby’s downtime, the remembrance of feeling needed and necessary came rushing back. It’s been a decade since someone looked to me to say “It’s going to be alright” and actually believed me. It felt good.

A paycheck is nice, but most of us are smart enough to know that if we dropped out of the workplace, someone could step in and take our place. 

Once the kids leave home there isn’t much need for our physical ministrations, and all we have to offer is emotional support and advice when asked. No one is dependent on us for survival or comfort.  

It was shockingly easy to fall back into the role of nurturer. There was something rewarding in being responsible for a loved one’s comfort and integral to his day-to-day support.  

However, it was a short-term job. I’m fully aware that for many spouses who are the primary caregivers for a chronic or terminally ill partner, it can be a difficult job, much like being an overwhelmed young mother.  

As much as I enjoyed feeling needed, it also made me realize the struggle of the heroic men and women who step up and give tender care to spouses or elderly parents for weeks or years. They are the real Florence Nightingales.  

 

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