Sunday Afternoon. NaijaHusband is reclined on the sofa. His eyes are glazed over, and his mouth is slightly ajar as he watches the figures on the television screen moving around frantically with their fast cars and even faster dialogue.
I speak to him. He does not answer. I repeat myself but only the television responds, as the on screen hero fires a warning shot in the air. My husband still says nothing, but the message is clear.
Do not disturb.
I begin to boil. Typical! More interested in the television than in me! What if I was in trouble? What if I really needed his help? Would he only respond after his show had released him from his spell? He wouldn’t care!
I consider standing in front of the television in protest at what I perceive to be his uncaring, unfeeling self…then suddenly I remember something.
When I was a child, whenever my mother fell ill, my father would simply look at her, while maintaining a safe distance, and ask her if she’d applied Robb. It didn’t matter what the ailment was, be it a broken foot, an inflamed ulcer or malaria, he did not know how to extend any compassion beyond the bottle of ointment, which he would usually offer to her just a few minutes before asking if his food was ready.
So years later, when a doctor announced that I would need surgery and asked me to find someone to take care of me post-op, I realized that the only “family” I had nearby was Naijahusband. Yet, at the thought of having him come to take care of me, I balked. “He is a man…he won’t know how!” I thought to myself. “He’ll just hand me some Robb like my father did.” “And even if he could take care of me, would I want him to? ” “If I let him see me in my weakest and most vulnerable state, would he still see the woman he fell in love with? Am I invoking ‘in sickness and in health’ too early into the relationship?” Would he view me differently afterwards or, even worse, abandon me if I didn’t get better?” I let these thoughts go on through my head, refusing to rein them in.
Fast forward to that Sunday afternoon, when I stood by the television trying to get my husband’s attention, I remembered an email I’d written to my mother during my post-op recovery. Scrolling through my phone, I quickly found it.
This process has been a real eye opener and taught me a lot about what “in sickness and in health” means. When getting ready for the surgery I didn’t expect to need him this much (I figured what can a man do? What I really need is my mother!) and tried to prepare as much I could without him. But from the second the surgery was over it became clear to me that I’d need him for absolutely everything. He sat in the waiting room praying until I was out and then he became a medical assistant in the recovery room, fetching things for the nurses and being my advocate when I couldn’t speak.
And at home this man has done everything from dressing my wounds, to taking me to the bathroom, to massaging my feet, to cooking for me. He even tried to sing me to sleep (didn’t work but I appreciate him trying lol). He’s fetching me hot drinks at 3 in the morning and buying me gingerale when I’m nauseous. He’s become my PA, constantly answering all the calls from family and friends. He won’t let me lift a finger. At one point silly me thought he wouldn’t find me pretty anymore because he’d seen me at my bloodiest and weakest. But he keeps hugging me and telling me I’m beautiful.
He was supposed to go back to his house and head to work today but he’s still here making me oats. I even heard him on the phone telling his mum “jobs will come and go but my wife* cannot be replaced.”
I can’t imagine….. I literally cannot imagine… trying to have done this myself . You know until something like this happens most women assume that they’ll have to be the ones caring for the guy…and that if they fall sick they can’t expect much from him either. People talk so much about women being caregivers, we fail to question if the men in our lives can do the same. Seems like we get what we expect. I guess that’s what we grew up seeing from our parents…but I’ve realized that my assumptions about men should never have been an acceptance that they weren’t capable of caring. I should have trusted him, trusted God and trusted that I made the right decision about the man I picked to spend the rest of my life with.
I finish reading that email and call out to him again. He responds this time, turning towards me with that smile that first got me hooked on him, and asks if I need something.
“Nothing…” I respond…”Just wanted to say I love you.”
To all the men out there who are like this, please, stay you.
*- Like a typical Yoruba guy, he was already using the word “iyawo” before we were married.