There’s a reason we say “in sickness and in health” on our wedding day.
“I think I’m finally ready to go,” I said. It had been two days since my gall bladder surgery. For years, my doctor had prescribed various over-the-counter remedies for my indigestion, but when an ultrasound had shown a gallstone the size of a marble, he had shaken his head in disbelief. “But you only have two of the three Fs” he’d said. “Fat, female and forty.”
I wasn’t fat, but I was female and in my forties.
My daughter was away at school, but my teenaged son was home during the day. He was more than capable of keeping an eye on me during my recovery, but my husband Ray insisted on staying home from work.
Now, two days after the surgery, it had been four days since I’d last taken a dump. I was relieved that things were starting to move, but I was not looking forward to it. As I stood up tentatively from the bed and leaned on Ray’s shoulder, I realized that on top of everything else, my period had come. The sheets were soaked, and my PJs hung damply from my butt.
“Oh, God,” I said as we started our slow shuffle to the bathroom.
“It’s OK,” Ray said. “I’ll get it.” He helped me to settle onto the toilet and then left and closed the door, but I could tell he was waiting right outside, listening, wondering if he could help me. How could he possibly help me with that? But oh, God, it was so painful that I was tempted to ask him. When I was done, I sat back exhausted, leaning against the toilet seat. My embarrassment was compounded by anxiety. I was sure that our persnickety toilet would not be able to flush down what I had just deposited in it.
“I’ll get it,” Ray said as he came in and helped me to stand. He turned on the shower, and I looked down at myself. My stomach was swollen and lumpy, covered with yellow iodine and purple bruises. My thighs were pasted with blood.
Ray pushed the shower curtain aside and nodded his head encouragingly at the stream of warm water. I stepped in. Discolored water swirled around the drain.
Was I disgusting? Was I old and disgusting?
Before Ray pulled the curtain shut, he held my hand for one more heartbeat and said, “You are my flower.”
Lea Page is an author, knitter, gardener, and dog-spoiler living with her husband in New Hampshire.