When it comes to my health, I’ve relied on my good instincts first. This stubborn notion probably emerged shortly after birth, once I figured out my mom kept all the superpowers. I knew that any menace barrelling through her three daughters’ lives had to wheedle its way past her before anyone else—particularly since my dad, the family physician, opted to divert all of his energies toward his patients.
But here I am, at 57, in the middle of a health break-down like I haven’t seen in decades. I’ve had to change my tune. Help me, dear hubby: I can’t do this by myself has become my new mantra, my daily whimper. Despite pretending to myself and the world I am a free-standing, don’t-cross-me, badass woman, I’ve found a blind spot. I need help when I’m stuck. Forget stubborn self-reliance. God help me. I’ll have to ask a man.
And God help me—when I asked for one this time, he showed up.
Thanks to that experiment, my rebirthed, wiser self now issues words of gratitude: Thank you, dear hubby; you’ve got my back. Thank you for reminding me; you’ve had my back since Day One.
I suffer from something called ulcerative colitis. It’s a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease, one that’s been on a low boil for ages. In fact, I’ve revelled in avoiding epic flare-ups since my son was born almost twenty-two years ago. I got cocky about my lengthy remission. I even offered fellow sufferers unsolicited advice. I thought I was doing everything right. Diabolical Dana: untouchable. Certain, I was, that my restorative yoga, moderate imbibing of wine and chocolate, and regular visits to massage therapists and naturopaths were keeping its key trigger—stress—at bay.
Turns out I might have benefited from watching my supermom a little closer. Even though she was heroic in handling her daughters’ crises, there is only so much one human can do against the vagaries of the universe. For whatever reason, I am now sick. I need reinforcements. I’ve had to call in the specialists. Knock back the system-resuscitating meds. I’ve had to stoop over my distended belly on the really bad days, and ask someone to guide me up the stairs.
And who would that person be who takes my hand you might ask? You guessed it—my dear, sweet husband.
I beleaguer you with my list of physical woes not to burden you—I’m acutely aware people endure far worse, and often in silence. But rather, I want to put hubby in the spotlight as a way to atone for my many years of expecting so little from men—from “good old white guys” for that matter—from feeling, as the mother of four boys, that guys were secretly being led by the more powerful sex.
Just this morning I was cradling my torn-up insides with one hand while madly rummaging through the fridge with the other, certain I couldn’t function till I’d found my probiotics. Hubby dropped whatever he was doing and joined me. He searched the house, bravely thrusting his fingers through dark bathroom drawers covered in sticky, unidentified residue. When we called off the search, he rushed out to the pharmacy to pick up more without prompting, only to learn I’d found said probiotics at the back of the fridge just after he’d left.
He heard the news, shrugged, and handed me the new bottle—without complaint.
Since he’s been home for the past two weeks—a high school teacher on spring break—he’s pretty much cleared the decks for anything his wife needs. This includes backrubs, random grocery store runs, embarrassing sample drop-offs at the lab, “accident cleanups,” and an ongoing interest in my day-to-day sick person report.
Lord love him—he actually sounds interested. What’s more, he has set aside any of the fun or relaxing stuff he might have planned for his hard-earned break this year—a brutally exhausting one thanks to the curriculum overhauls required in a global pandemic. He keeps himself at the ready for ailing wifey, plus any unanticipated dog or child catastrophes, instead.
Exhausted, weakened, and worried, I keep reaching out to him. The heck with stoicism. Nobody needs another patient letting herself go, only to show up in Emergency during these hard times. Nope: hubby to the rescue. He hasn’t let me down yet.
As the daughter of a father too troubled to ever be there for his daughters like he should have been, I feel enlightened. All those years of assuming the big lesson was to grow strong standing on my own size-six woman-feet. All those years of thinking a tree bending its branches toward the sun struck a pose of vulnerability, rather than grace. All it took was just to ask. To find the right guy, and just ask.
I am so endlessly grateful for my dependable husband, in sickness and in health. I got it wrong. Men and women, we need each other—no matter what. Sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s sure taken me a while. What a blessing to finally figure that out.