For years, my family has teased me about my role as total “princess.” My amazing husband of four decades dotes on spoiling me rotten. He cooks, washes dishes, shops, runs errands, takes the garbage out, and even feeds the cat. Whenever I tell him this division of labor isn’t fair to him and I’m happy to do my share, he invariably brushes me off. “I love doing this stuff,” he says. “Besides, I’m retired, and you’re still working.” Well, that’s true. Writing is work, but still… I know lots of writers who don’t have such giving, thoughtful partners.
And then, twelve days ago, our roles suddenly reversed. Well, not exactly reversed. My husband isn’t writing novels. But his back suddenly went into major spasm, such that his days are now spent lying on our living room floor when not gobbling pain pills or hobbling to the car for physical therapy appointments.
To say that he is miserable is an understatement. It isn’t just the pain which at times is excruciating, but the toll this is taking on his mental health. My husband thrives on activity. He genuinely detests not being able to do his volunteer work, garden, cook, and jump in the car to run errands.
I’ve discovered a bunch of things, like how awful it is to see someone you love suddenly become nearly incapacitated and not know at this point whether the problem is temporary or long standing. And I’ve never had more respect or empathy for fulltime caregivers than I do now that I’m the one fulfilling that role. It isn’t only that I’m physically tired—at times, I’m running close to empty emotionally.
Of course, this is the cost of loving someone “in sickness and in health.” It’s also the joy. Now, more than ever, I recognize how deeply devoted I am to my life partner. Even if my days of “princessdom” are over, I’d never choose to be with anyone else.
Besides, I’ve discovered that my husband’s not the only good cook in the family. I make a mean spaghetti. Who knows? Maybe penning a culinary mystery is in my future. Who was it who said that every awful thing that happens to a writer is “material”? I’ve definitely acquired a fresh batch!