My husband Seth and I got married almost 30 years ago. We were both about 21 years old when the incident occurred.
At that age, you just don't get it.
Because here's the thing — if you are both endowed with the gift of a reasonably long life, you have made a vow...you have promised to take care of each other. You have a deal that has a clause for long-term care over the course of life that will certainly include some illness, injury, and eventually some slobber.
If you are the man, it may not be a bad deal. If you happen to consume enough Klondike bars to propel yourself into a bad case of diabetes, you can be sure that your Clorox-toting wife will keep the wounds on your feet practically sterile and make sure you take your medication at exactly the optimum moment.
If however, you happen to be a woman, you are entrusting your care to a gender of hominid who believes maggots are the coolest wound dressing EVER, and who feels that turning your underwear inside out is exactly the same as wearing a clean pair.
But the fact is when you are 21, "in sickness and in health" is romance, not reality.
Which brings me to the hair story.
I think I may have mentioned that I broke my arm a couple of years ago. Shattered my arm. It actually temporarily shattered my life, because it brought everything to a screeching halt. I spent four or five days in the hospital leading up to surgery, during which time I could only cope with the misery with the help of constant intravenous pain medication. To tell the truth, I would rather have a baby.
But Seth was there to help. He is the type of person who just does what he has to do in a crisis, and doesn't complain about it.
So after a few days of wallowing around in a drug-induced stupor, it came to me that I really needed to wash my hair. Which was impossible with one of my arms completely disconnected from itself.
"Hair is dirty. Itching." I said. I found it too exhausting to be troubled with adjectives or unnecessary verbs.
"What do I need?" Seth asked.
I strained to think. "Shampoo, conditioner, comb with big teeth," I said. At the time I was still oozing estrogen and I had a thick wad of long hair.
Seth left for awhile and came back with a bottle of shampoo. And a miniature comb. Somehow those supplies seemed wrong, but my brain was too foggy to make sense of things.
I waddled to the bathroom, dragging my IV drip, my arm bound and strapped to my body. He plunged my head in the sink. Lather, rinse, no repeat. He tried to work quickly. He wrapped my head in towel and led me back to the hospital bed.
Now it was time for the comb out. He pulled the towel off my head.
After several days of no combing, a hard water shampoo, and no conditioner applied, I had the head of Medusa. I saw a look of horror on Seth's face, but he quickly got control and attempted the comb out. It was like trying to comb out a beehive hairdo with a Barbie comb.
"Ouch," I said.
"Sorry," he said.
"Ouch." I said again.
"Sorry." The toy comb was already hopelessly tangled in my hair and he was trying to remove it with his big giant fingers.
I instinctively pushed the magic button on my IV, allowing a dose of Schedule II narcotics to mercifully drench my hair follicles. I felt very sleepy.
When I woke up, Seth was watching TV. I touched my head with my working arm.. The outer layers of hair were combed smooth, but the underneath layers were a springy matted wad.
"Your hair looks nice," Seth said.
"Thank you," I said. At least it was a clean, non-itchy rats nest. In the scheme of things the rest didn't matter so much. Not at the moment.
After all, by the time you are 51, "in sickness and health" is reality, not romance.
Theresa Timmons' column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at email@example.com.