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Male laziness interrupted by husbandly duty

September 08, 2008|AL MARTINEZ

In the arena of human indolence, the male of the species has no equal.

It's why he invented the couch, television, underwear and holidays, all of which combine to allow him to lie on his primary creation wearing only boxer shorts and watching other primates bat, kick, pass or lob balls of varying sizes for his delight and edification.

What man considers both comfort and enjoyment can be achieved on any weekend day, but tradition has a special tug when it's a national holiday, an occurrence that he feels has been created especially for him to laze.

The ideal is not always achieved. This past Labor Day, for instance, I saw an opportunity to lounge about and conduct myself in a manner that has characterized the post-Mesozoic male since TV arrived and football gained a prominence equal to the coronation of a queen.

I was prepared that holiday weekend to join millions of others in watching whatever required a minimum need for synaptic connections, among which sports looms large. That's when I heard about the UCLA-Tennessee game. It turned out to be a contest created by the sweetest of angels. The boys on the field crunched, tackled, smashed, ran and passed through a series of ups and downs that finally ended in two kicks, one good, the other bad, that gave our local guys the game. Even this early, it is likely to emerge as game of the year.

And I missed it.

My Cinelli, who is usually a veritable explosion of energy, has been laid low by a post-surgical bout of colitis. The surgery itself, required to correct a knee problem, was a snap by her standards; had they let her, she'd have danced her way out of the O.R. At St. John's Hospital, she was treated with smiles and efficiency by nurses and their assistants who seemed to have converged from all of the continents on Earth, such was the variety of their ethnic origins.

But once home, she had only me, a dour street kid from the continent of Oakland, who found it all too much for him. Increasingly active as the knee healed, she was suddenly bed-bound again by stomach problems, with all of their gloomy implications.

I could bring her applesauce or a wet washcloth, but dealing with bedpans is a job for the perfect mate, and God only knows I have never been that. Not even close. I write. That's it. Bedpans are a foreign country.

And it wasn't just that. Ice packs had to be filled and applied; cold water had to be furnished; Jell-O, sugar-free Popsicles and more applesauce were required at different times to soothe the devils in her stomach. At one point I offered her a sponge bath for my own amusement, but she replied in a weak but determined voice, "I'm sick, for God's sake! Don't touch me!"

A caring daughter-in-law and generous neighbors kept me from starvation with casseroles and a roast because the kitchen is a mystery to me. Finding anything beyond the sink posed challenges that no man on Labor Day should have to face. Where's the bread, where's a fork, where's the microwave, what do its buttons mean, where's the ice, where's the . . . everything?

I charged up a pair of walkie-talkies we utilize for such occasions, and although it was better than a yell or a moan, it added to the chores needed to be performed to fill her needs.

"This is Patient One, come in, Elmer."

"Not the bedpan again!"

"Roger that, Elmer. Over."

It was as I enjoyed the company of a friendly martini one evening after the day's nursing chores that I began to realize I was less than the caretaker the situation required.

If my efforts were judged by the 12-point Boy Scout Law, I would have failed on the three points of helpful, friendly and cheerful during her ordeal.

She had come from the care of the happy and uncomplaining nurses at St. John's into the cruel hands of the antichrist. But then it's not easy going from writing a column to emptying bedpans, however one might strain for a connection.

But finally it became time as Cinelli improved to have a little satisfaction of my own. To remind her that not all of the treatment at St. John's was longingly to be desired, I sneaked into the downstairs bedroom where she was ensconced, shook her awake at 3 a.m. and announced cheerfully, "Time to take your vitals!"

She understood the joke, but it was the only moment in more than half a century of marriage that I was truly afraid of her smile.


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