The other day I took Nate to the hospital for a routine endoscopy. He gets them every couple of years to monitor his Barrett’s Syndrome and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease.) Basically his esophagus is having an identity crisis and thinks it’s a runway covered in jet fuel. He’s had this condition for quite awhile and takes medication for it and is supposed to watch what he eats and when he eats and because he’s presumably a responsible forty year old man, his doctor assumes that he will follow his prescribed diet accordingly because the consequences of not doing so are having your throat and stomach explode in an acid volcano and it’s pretty hard to mow the lawn or renovate the master bathroom without a digestive tract.
Nate is aware of EXACTLY what he’s supposed to eat and when he’s supposed to eat and he chooses to ignore the guidelines by dumping an inch of cayenne pepper on spaghetti once a week and drinking three or four cans of ginger ale before bed every single night.
If he thought he could get away with it, Nate would mainline a concoction of ginger ale and jalapeno while I wasn’t looking. And he insists on covering EVERYTHING with whatever hot and spicy crap he’s managed to smuggle into the house. It drives me insane. It’s bad enough that he does this, but can’t he at least do me the courtesy of tasting the food before ruining it? How does he know it needs more heat? One of these days I’m going to substitute habaneros and scotch bonnets for the meat in my meatloaf and see if he notices.
Nate’s death wish isn’t limited to my cooking. Anytime he orders Chinese or Indian food, he doesn’t even bother to look at their heat charts. He just orders it HOTTER THAN THE DEPTHS OF SHEER HELL and if there’s a language barrier, he simply pantomimes a blowtorch to his throat.
And let’s not forget the jalapeno or cayenne potato chips that without fail appear in our pantry each and every time Nate stops off after work to get his prescriptions filled. Is this the very definition of irony? Or stupidity? I vote for the latter.
Why are men such idiots sometimes? Why not just rip out your entire GI tract, soak it in lighter fluid, set fire to it and be done with it already? I’ve tried talking to him about it but it’s like talking to a man who repeatedly stabs himself in the eye with a fork and then complains that he can’t see. I don’t have time for stupidity so STOP STABBING YOURSELF IN THE EYE ALREADY.
We go the hospital for his procedure and I walked back to the prep room to give Nate a kiss and then I returned to the waiting room to settle myself in for the long haul. I brought two books with me, my iPod was fully charged, I had snacks and water and the kids were home with enough food to last them for a couple of days, if need be. I was wearing my comfy pants, my flip-flops and, after the departure of a baby and toddler whose mother had exhaustion written all over her body, I had the entire waiting room to myself. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks, not because Nate would undergo an invasive procedure because I’m really not that callous but because we’re only in week three of our nine week summer vacation, otherwise known as HELL. Need I say more? I wasn’t in a waiting room in a hospital waiting to find out if my husband’s esophagus looked like lava so much as I was alone with several hours of uninterrupted time in my immediate future. No demands to eat, no driving all over creation, no juggling playdates, no constant barrage of phone calls and messages with none of them being for me, no screamfests, no bloodshed, no hissy fits, no stomping feet, no I’M BORED, THIS HOUSE IS BORING, YOU’RE BORING, no refrigerator door being whipped open every five seconds only to be slammed shut with an accompanying I’M HUNGRY AND THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT, ARE WE POOR? In my world, this was as close to Heaven as I was going to get without having to update my life insurance policy.
So when the nurse came out to tell me Nate was done and not even one hour had passed, I felt gypped. Wait, let me clarify: I felt an immediate sense of relief that he was done and had come through the procedure with no complications. Then I felt gypped. Ripped off. Screwed. Shafted. Cheated. Boned. Whatever.
What the hell? What kind of hospital was this? What the hell kind of doctor actually ran on time? Did he not know that there was a desperate wife and mother of two in his waiting room who would have given her right kidney for an extra hour? The kidney is probably all shriveled up like a raisin from multiple urinary tract infections but so what? I was still willing to part with it if it meant I could stay in isolation and not hear STOP TOUCHING ME, I’M TELLING MOM, MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM for another couple of hours. I mean, c’mon! What was this doctor thinking? For crying out loud, I hadn’t even had time to take off my bra and get comfortable.
I was willing to bet my left lung that doctor either had no kids or put them in boarding school 365 days out of the year.
I gathered up all my belongings, folded my blankie, carefully packed away my lamp and enjoyed one last moment of solitude before glumly following the nurse to recovery. Nate was laid out on his gurney, facing the wall and I was warned that he might be a bit “loopy.” I kissed his forehead and sat down next to him in an uncomfortable chair jammed up against his bed and immediately got smacked in the head by his IV bag. He raised his head, blearily looked at me, said “wwzzziiiitttteeeepppp” and then passed out and immediately started to snore. For this, I was interrupted?
About an hour later, Nate was semi-lucid and the nurse was explaining the discharge papers to me. She turned to Nate and loudly ran down the list of do’s and don’ts as Nate just stared through her. DO rest, DO eat something, DO take your medicine, DON’T operate heavy machinery, DON’T drive, DON’T make any major decisions, DON’T …
Hang on a sec. No major decisions? I looked at the nurse and asked her to clarify. She sighed, rolled her eyes, looked exasperated and told me that if I wanted to sign divorce papers or buy a house, it would have to wait a day but other than that, use my best judgment.
Best judgment is relative and depends solely on the circumstances in which you find yourself. If I had been a woman well rested and well read and well fed, I might have taken her instructions to mean that I should get Nate home right away, help him take his medicine and wash it down with food and put him right to bed.
But I was a woman who last read a book by skimming sentences while waiting for red lights, a woman who didn’t get an opportunity to eat any of the snacks in the waiting room, a woman who hadn’t been well rested in about three years. To top it all off, I was looking dead on at another six weeks of incarceration in the season of summer JUST SHOOT ME NOW vacation. So I took the nurse’s recommendation to mean that as long as Nate didn’t sign away his rights to our house or children or cast his vote in a major election, he was perfectly fine to contribute his thoughts and help make minor decisions about various issues and I thought long and hard for approximately three seconds before settling on the topic of home decor.
I quickly finished the paperwork, helped Nate tie his shoes and hustled him out of there before he got a clue. I packed him into the car and drove to Olive Garden for dinner.
I steered Nate to the table and got him situated in his chair, using the wall and my purse to prop him up. The waitress came over and began her spiel about the choice wine for the day but when she saw only one of Nate’s eyes focusing on her, with the other rolling to the back of his head she paused and looked at me. I put on my best haggard expression, rolled my eyes, shook my head slightly and mouthed “I think he’s had enough” and she took pity on me and brought me extra breadsticks.
Nate busied himself blowing raspberries across the table while I placed our orders. After our waitress left, I took out my list and started with our laundry room.
Me: I’m over here, Nate. I’ve been thinking.
Nate: Think, drink, stink (giggling)
Me: Let’s have some fun, ok?
Nate: OK! Fink, rink, pink, dink!
Me: Let’s have fun by painting! Isn’t painting fun?
Nate: Can I paint too?
Me: I was hoping you’d say that! Let’s paint our laundry room.
Nate (mouth forming into a big “O”): We have a laundry room?
Me: Yes, we do. I spend a lot of time in there. You should visit it sometime. It’s fun in there!
Nate (eyes widening in shock): where is it?
Me: It’s off the kitchen. It has two big machines that go BOOM and make loud noises and vibrate and move all over the floor. You can ride them if you want to. And there’s lots of clothes to play dress up and lots of things to spray all over.
Me: So what do you think? How about we paint it? Doesn’t Peach Blossom Mist sound like an awesome color?
Nate: Is it blue?
Me: Blue? Why?
Nate (shouting): I LOVE BLUE! I LOVE BLUE!
Me: Yes, Peach Blossom Mist is blue. You want to paint the laundry room Peach Blossom Mist?
Nate: Mist! List! Pissed!
Nate pauses and his eyes get as round as saucers and he gasps.
Nate: Oooooooh, I just swore! I’m telling! I just swore! I swore! I swore!
Me: That’s ok, I say much worse, just wait a couple of minutes. Nate, let’s try and stay focused, ok? So, Peach Blossom Mist for the laundry room?
Nate: Yes! Yes! Yes! (claps hands loudly)
Me: Great! Just sign this list here. Right here on this line. Cross your “t”. Good job!
Nate: Can I go home now?
Me: Not yet, we haven’t eaten and you need some food in your tummy.
Just then our meals came out and the waitress grated a pound of cheese on mine and threw me a sympathetic glance when Nate pulled his lip over his forehead. As she left, I woke Nate up and I proceeded with our kitchen.
Me: Hey, I’ve got an idea! As long as we’re painting the laundry room, how about we paint more rooms?
Nate: We have more rooms? Are we rich?
Me: Yes, we do and no, we’re not. Remember our kitchen?
Nate: No. Who are you?
Me: I’m your wife. The kitchen is that room in the middle of our house where everyone dumps all of their stuff. It has black counters covered with glasses and dishes and homework? There are white cabinets and a shiny refrigerator? There’s a sink somewhere in there?
Me: How about we paint the kitchen a darker brown?
Nate: NO NO NO NO NO!
Me: What’s wrong with brown?
Nate: I want blue! BLUE, BLUE, BLUE
Me: But Nate, brown is just a fancy way of saying blue.
Nate: I want to paint it brown! I LOVE BROWN.
Me: Great! Sign right here on this list, right below your other one. Dot your “i”. Good job!
As we finished our meals, I noticed that Nate’s lucid periods were becoming more frequent and lasting longer. He stopped blowing raspberries and his eyes were in sync again and he hadn’t fallen asleep in over five minutes and he was actually making sense. I hadn’t even gotten to the foyer and master bedroom yet but I still had a shred of hope as Nate’s blink took a full five seconds. That is, until the waitress came around with the check and Nate flipped open his wallet, tossed his credit card down and handed the bill back to the waitress without even looking at it.
Use of a credit card with wild abandon? Irrefutable proof that Nate was Nate again and my dreams of a color-splashed home were once again pulled out of my reach.
So was my list as Nate grabbed it off the table before I had a chance to fling my body over it.
Needless to say, Peach Blossom Mist is not in my foreseeable future. And neither are any more trips to Olive Garden.