She’s incapacitated; he’s doing the cooking

His IOU to her is seemingly never-ending—until she makes a comment about the bedsheets

By George Valadie

I’ll tell you the truth: being a housewife is hell. At this very moment, instead of writing this column, I really ought to be in the kitchen.

There are dirty dishes in the sink in need of being moved to the dishwasher. But that’s currently on hold while the clean ones already in there are in need of being put away, not to mention the pots and pans I allowed to drip-dry last night that are also in need of being relocated to their respective homes.

Throw in the floors that are in need of a good mopping, and that’s a lot of stuff in “need” of a lot of stuff. Especially for a room that’s barely 10 square feet.

Just down the hall, the laundry’s piling up—and I have no idea where it all comes from—there are only two of us. The bed needs making, the sheets really ought to be washed, and the bathrooms are in need of … well, they’re in need of everything.

I’ve only had this new gig for five weeks but dang!

My wife is currently incapacitated while she recuperates from some pretty extensive foot surgery. She’s free of pain, but her follow-up prescription was “get in a recliner, make sure your foot’s above your heart, knee-roll to the bathroom when you have to. Sleep with your foot elevated. And come see me in six weeks.”

She thinks we’re just a week away from her regaining her freedom and being allowed to put weight on her foot. But even then, I think we’re in this for a bit of a longer haul.

In a nutshell, we’re here because Nanc inherited her mother’s feet. Mammaw was a wonderful mother, wife, and human being. Kind, gentle, God-fearing, she was a wizard in the kitchen, played Yahtzee on the floor with the kids, could give a nifty haircut, and stood on her head at the age of 80.

But her feet were an absolute mess.

As a result, Nancy has been living with the same combination of arthritis, bunions, hammertoes, lousy balance, and a lot of pain that keeps her from enjoying a lot of life.

It was three years ago when she underwent the first surgical attempt on her right foot in hopes of correcting this mess. The results can only be described as a complete bust.

There’s some debate about whether her current neuropathy existed pre- or post-op. And while the nerve block prevented the pain it was intended to block, it never really went away, so you can add in some unexpected numbness.

And worst of all, the screws holding her realigned bones together broke. They just broke.

“Yeah, I hate that, but it happens sometimes,” was all he could say.

As life would have it, she had a follow-up appointment on the day before our youngest daughter’s wedding. The doc said, “I really need to remove that broken pin. It’s getting ready to break through the skin.”

“Well, not today, you’re not,” she countered. “My daughter’s getting married tomorrow.”

“Look,” he re-countered, “if I don’t take that out today, there’s a good chance it’s gonna poke through your skin during the wedding.”

That logic won the argument, the pliers came out, and thankfully, she could still wear the new shoes she had bought.

Now, three years later, back at square one with a jacked-up foot and as much pain as ever, she has found a different doctor. And even though it involves driving to Nashville periodically, she decided to give him a chance to operate on that same foot once again.

I’m pretty good with words, but I have none to adequately describe what we all saw in her X-rays. Not to mention the bones of one toe weren’t even connected to anything else. They were just hanging there. Were it not for the skin holding everything in, she’d be minus a toe.

The doctor was nothing if not frank: “This is going to be a lot of work. I’m planning to take out all the old hardware that’s still in there. There’s going to be several different incisions and a lot of sawing because I need to shorten up several bones. And I’ll reattach everything with plates instead of screws.”

“I don’t know that you’ll ever be 21 again, but I think you’ll be better than you are. We’re hoping so anyway.”

And so here we are, she’s in the recliner, doing what she’s been told to do and hoping his hope does indeed come to pass. Her days are spent bouncing back and forth between Fox News and Andy Griffith reruns while I’m the one reading recipes and trying to decide what to cook for dinner.

She thinks it’s cute. I think it’s a pain. No wonder she loves eating out so much.

I’ve always been pretty good with breakfast foods and burgers on the grill. But she handed me a stack of options that include entrees such as “Romesco Chicken & Poblano Pepper” and “Crispy Skin Salmon & Orzo.” All are testing my limited skills.

Not to mention I’ve never even heard of ingredients like tzatziki or miso paste, and I darn sure couldn’t find them in a grocery store.

There was a period about five years ago when I had some brain surgery. A mastoid craniotomy was what they called it. And this woman took incredible care of me.

But when she recalls my time as a patient, though, she says I was a pain. I get it now.

“George, can you please get me some more Diet Coke? Thanks, honey, I appreciate it. But can you please get me some more ice, I like more than you do.”

“Can you please get me my hairbrushes? Oh wait, you forgot the big round one. It’s in the bottom drawer.”

“When you wash my clothes, will you please put my underwear in that net bag that zips up? And will you wash all my black things together? Oh, and that one sits out to dry, that one hangs up, and the rest can go in the dryer.”

It’s all been really good, though. We rented a ramp to get her wheelchair out of the house, though it’s not as gradual a slope as one would hope for. I haven’t dumped her off yet, so there’s that!

All that being said, you’ll be happy to know that as this experience has unfolded, it has occurred to me more than once how much she does around the house. Maybe it’s that way in your house, too.

I’m not a complete slacker. We have our separate chores. I do stuff. Though I’m not entirely sure she likes the way I do it.

What has happened most though is a rekindling of a recurring guilt I feel for all those years of marriage when our three girls were growing up.

Yes, she chose to work in the home while I went to teach and coach other people’s kids. Leaving early, getting home late, spending most nights grading papers.

She did the rest. All of it.

I realize there’s a good chance you’re just shaking your head as you read about my little bit of pitching in. Such probably seems laughably trite, especially in this Easter season when we just celebrated the greatest sacrifice man has ever known.

A little cooking, a little cleaning, heck, it feels trite just to write about it.

Still, I’ll be as happy as she will when she regains her mobility. But if she never did, I’ve also realized I’d gladly do it all day, every day. My IOU is never-ending.

Until today. That’s when she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She spilled her guts. “George, have you noticed that the zigzag pattern on the bottom bed sheet lies in a different direction than the zigzags in the top sheet? It’s just driving me crazy.”

She gets no more miso paste in her chicken.

Dear God—May your Good Friday suffering inspire us to sacrifice for others more than we have, more than we want to. Amen.


George Valadie is a parishioner at St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga.

Comments 3

  1. Enjoy reading everything you write, but this is a particular gem. Blessings to you both.

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