‘Twas the night before Christmas… and my husband came home with the beginnings of a chest infection.
Now, I could plead with excuses of why this Christmas was never going to be a great one for me; explain how I was already in a state of ‘bah humbug’ – irritated with the carols playing on the radio, and everyone preparing for a jolly holiday, but for reasons I won’t go into, believe me, it really has been a very grim and difficult year this year.
However, this doesn’t excuse my behaviour. By the time you have finished reading my blog post, I am sure you will agree, that whilst we all know about the Christmas fairy (or angel), Christmas Scrooge and The Christmas Grinch, this year, I should win the prize for the new title of ‘The Christmas Bitch!’
Christmas eve was spent in front of the TV with hubby coughing and whimpering. I could hear the rattle in his chest quite clearly, so I did not need the extra little groan at the end of each cough to signal how painful it was for him. He may well have had a fever, but I found the chattering of his teeth with equally annoying judders of breath, a little too much.
“Shall I put the heating on?” I asked, noting that the Christmas tree was likely to have icicles hanging off it soon, as the heating had been off all day.
“No, it’s alright, I’ll get a blanket,” he said, fetching a bobbly pink fluffy blanket from the spare room that looked hilarious wrapped around his rather large physique.
Now, in case you hadn’t already gathered, I really am not a very good nurse, and have no intention of ever working in the caring profession, but my hubby is equally a very poor patient. In the past, he has been rushed to hospital by blue light for what turned out to be a tummy upset, and again for the kidney stone which magically disappeared – (but I have heard this pain compares to childbirth).
I was more than sympathetic when he recently couldn’t walk with a bad knee, returning from hospital with crutches (that he asked for) to be told he had strained a muscle behind his knee. I must add (to be kind), that he has got a dodgy knee which may need an operation one day – but that is largely down to his weight. So, the day after receiving his crutches and the drama of how difficult it was to feel ‘disabled’ (he’s telling me??), the following morning he bounced into our bedroom with a cup of tea for me, with no crutches in sight. It was a miracle, he was healed!
So, back to Christmas eve, and me drinking my fifth glass of mulled wine and watching ‘The Walking Dead’ on T.V. since there was nothing but Christmas crap on. Hubby was drifting in an out of sleep after an exhausting day working in our café, with periodic shuddering and moans. I was trying to keep my spirits up, so went to find the dog’s Christmas stocking and treated them to some chewy twizzler-type treats.
Periodically, hubby would wake up to let out little whimpers and groans (and life-sustaining sighs), and when he ventured to the toilet, he did a little shuffle thing that I’ve never seen him do before. I’m guessing he wanted me to know his legs were weak, and I contemplated getting the redundant crutches out of the cupboard!
I tried suggesting he went to bed when he told me for the umpteenth time how ill he felt, but he insisted on ‘soldiering on’ and sat in the armchair breathing as though he were having labour contractions.
As I tucked into the tin of quality street, picking out all the toffees, he said “I know I’m not well, when I’m off my food.” Funny that, he polished off a huge plate of beef stew and dumplings only two hours earlier that I had lovingly cooked for his Christmas eve meal.
I kept my eyes fixed on the TV as he continued to cough (can’t be helped I know), but if it weren’t for the little moans that came with it, I would have had more sympathy – I promise.
I asked him if he would like a drink and he asked for a cup of tea. A cup of tea? I knew things must be bad. My hubby never drinks tea 365 days of the year. He (apparently) only drinks tea when he is ill.
“How do you take it?” I asked,
“Milky with two large sugars,” he replied.
Now as the old saying goes, tea and sympathy should go together, but when I returned to the lounge with his cup of tea to find him tucking into the quality street, any ideas of sympathy just vanished from my thoughts.
Being the caring and kind person that my husband is (well, one of us has to be!), he offered to let me have our super king-sized bed to myself so that he didn’t disturb me that night, and it struck me as I went to bed, that my coughing was a little bit wheezy, and I felt a slight rawness in my throat. Shit! I was going to have his damn bug for Christmas day too!
I woke on Christmas morning to a strange sound that was like a distant cat purring with incoherent voices whining. It became apparent that hubby was beside me, watching the TV and the sound was his wheezing. I noticed that when I breathed out, I too had an annoying wheeze, but after a couple of coughs, the wheeze cleared. It was just a bit of phlegm in my throat.
“Why don’t you try coughing?” I said.
“Because it’s too painful, I will pass out with the pain.” Oh my god. Don’t say anything, I thought. You must get through today being kind. Learn some patience!
As he went to the bathroom, I was entertained with a masterful performance of how weak his body felt, and in case I hadn’t yet noticed he was unwell, I was reminded with numerous repeats of, “Oh god, it hurts when I walk, it hurts when I cough, it hurts when I breathe.” Well, stop bloody breathing then, I wanted to scream.
My presents lay at the end of the bed, and he laid next to me engrossed in the TV, obviously too weak to reach for my presents.
“Your presents are at the end of the bed,” he said, a little pathetically.
I jumped out of bed to fetch his new coat I had bought for Christmas to replace the Barbour jacket I had bought him earlier in the year and he had promptly lost. It is a Raging Bull, biker style jacket, which I managed to find in XXXL and is fully waterproof, and very smart. He loved it, and it put a smile on his face for the first time in the last twelve hours.
“Should we call the doctor?” I asked, seeing he had no intention of getting out of bed.
“No,” he replied adding a little cough. “It’s only a chest infection! But I don’t think I can walk the dogs this morning; I feel too weak.“
“No worries,” I said, “I’ll do it.” I wondered if we would have to cancel our Christmas lunch at the local pub, meaning I would be having a tin of spaghetti hoops on toast for my Christmas lunch.
“No, don’t be silly, we can still go,” he said. Of course! Nothing would keep my hubby away from his Christmas turkey.
I went for a lovely sunny walk with my two dogs, wishing every other couple out for their Christmas stroll a merry Christmas. I took in the beauty of my surroundings in the park and had a word with myself. Whilst I too, seemed to have some irritating cough and felt tired, it was clearly not as bad as what my hubby was going through. I needed to find more understanding and a little goodwill being it was Christmas day.
On returning home, I headed straight to the shower with Mabel – our black Labrador, who was now wearing ‘eau de fox shit’ and began to wash her down. She pulled and wriggled, causing my back to pull and it was particularly difficult for me, (being I have a spinal cord injury – no sympathy required). She shook her wet fur leaving a splattering of black hair all around the bathroom, and when I finally returned to our bedroom, hubby was still lying on the bed – but fully dressed.
“I’ll just do the hoovering and then I’ll get ready to go out,” I said, seeing it was already 11.15am and we were to be in the pub by 12.00.
“It’s alright, I’ve done the vacuuming while you were out,” he said, giving a raucous cough which ended with a painful whimper. What? He managed to whip around the house and do all the vacuuming whilst I was out walking the dogs, but couldn’t manage a sedate walk with me and our fur babies? I had visions of Little Britain and the sketch where Andy jumps out of the wheelchair to run around perfectly able the minute Lou’s back is turned. My good intention of finding more patience went out the window and other than offering him a cup of coffee, I decided I would ignore his attempts for sympathy for the rest of the day – bitch!
So, there we were at a table for two, watching all the other families with their party hats on.
“Do you want to pull my cracker?” I asked, half expecting him to reply that he felt too weak. Have you ever seen that couple in the restaurant who look like perfect strangers looking at everyone else around them to avoid conversation? I swore that would never be us, but with his sorrowful little face and alternate clearing of left and right nostrils, I found I couldn’t bear to look at him. (Bitch).
I ploughed my way through glasses of rose while hubby gave me a graphic description of how much phlegm was clogging up his throat and sniffing to highlight how things had now reached his nose. Why do men do that?
“Yes, I know you’re not well, hun,” I said, hoping that perhaps it would be an end to it. But I’m telling you, it was grim. He knew I was being intolerant and misinterpreted this as my thinking he was being a hypochondriac. This only served to increase his plea to lay it on even more thickly to demonstrate his illness.
With two Brussels sprouts and a whole roast potato left on his plate, hubby said,
“I’d be offended if someone left their plate like this in our café.”
“Why be offended?” I asked, knowing full well he was just drawing attention to the fact that he had left some food on his plate – which is highly out of character for him.
“Well, its rude, isn’t it? But I’m just off my food.” I bit my lip. He had managed the entrées pretty well and polished off the prawn cocktail that we had for starters without too much trouble.
I went outside for a puff on my vape, watching the street bustle with walkers who had come to the seaside for an invigorating walk. The vape stung my chest, and I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, but sipping my glass of rose, I thought ‘fuck it’, as I wallowed in my own Christmas misery.
I returned to the table to be told by my hubby how he had been forced to give up vaping (for a full twenty-four hours now!) because it was impossible to smoke. He couldn’t even he wanted to apparently since his lungs would reject it. I placed my vape on the table, holding back my cough for fear of a lecture and tiredness started to overwhelm me. I just wanted to get home and curl up on the sofa and read a good book.
After finishing my assiette of mini desserts, and hubby had polished off his Christmas pudding, a few people started to leave.
“Shall we scrap coffee and go home?” I said,
“No, it comes with a mince pie,” he replied, and I scratched my head whilst my eyes rose to the heavens.
Fine – a word that can mean so many things. In a woman’s world it invariably means I’m not okay, in fact it means I’m really not okay, but since I can’t tell you exactly how I am feeling, ‘fine’ will have to suffice.
On our return home, I went to take a call of nature and noticed the bathroom scales had been placed in the middle of the floor. I should have smiled as I moved them back to their correct place, but I didn’t. Did he really think that leaving two Brussels and a roast potato on his plate would make a significant difference to his weight at last? Had his new year’s diet started early?
The rest of Christmas day passed with us both sleeping in front of the TV and despite hubby having no appetite and not fancying tea, he polished off the large tub of Quality Street.
I finally left him snoring in front of the TV (so loud that I needed the subtitles on), and headed off to bed with my dogs, thinking it was quite possibly the worst Christmas of my entire life. Chester, our springer spaniel, fell asleep beside me and started snoring like a steam train, so I shut him out of the bedroom (typical male) – along with Mabel (to make sure I was being a fair parent) and willed myself to sleep. Tomorrow was another day.
The following day we were both in the café and I was helping – which very rarely happens. Because of my injury I am slightly disabled and standing for long periods of time is a no go, as is bending and lifting, but I managed to make coffees (badly) and clear the tables.
When I passed my husband in the kitchen to go to the washing up area, our pot washer – a young lad who dies his hair varying colours of the rainbow, was leaning against the dishwasher looking a little glum.
“Oh, what’s up?” I said, making him jump to attention and immediately start loading the dishwasher.
“Nothing,” he said, but something was up. I wondered if it were girlfriend troubles until he looked at me, and I saw his bloodshot eyes. Was he stoned? As he loaded the dishwasher he began coughing, a raw hacking cough that I was oh so familiar with.
“You’re not well!” I said.
“Some sort of chest infection,” he replied, trying to brush it off.
“Oh, that’s right – give him sympathy,” came the booming voice of my husband who was cooking, and yes, I did. I thanked the boy for coming in when he was clearly very poorly and looked like death warmed up. Why? I hear you ask. Well, I asked myself the same question. It was because he wasn’t asking for sympathy! He was just trying to get on with it, and not make a fuss.
So, it was highlighted how mean I was by giving sympathy to our pot-washer when I was neglecting my own husband. Perhaps it’s like the whole dating game thing, whereby, if you make yourself too available, or too needy, it’s a massive turn-off. Likewise, if someone keeps telling you how ill they are, or display exaggerated symptoms – it pushes you the other way! Well, it did me anyway.
My story ends the following day, when hubby and I took the dogs for a beach walk. (I insisted the sea air would do him good). There was a sense of ‘I’m too poorly to be doing this – but I’ll do it for you’ emanating from my hubby as we headed down to East Runton beach.
We were greeted with a bracing chill in the air and a depressing drizzle. The tide was out, and we walked the dogs along the sea edge, keeping our distance from other walkers to avoid a Mabel catastrophe. (She greets people by jumping up at them and giving them a slobbery European-style kiss, which, when covered in slobber and salty water would piss me off too)! I walked about ten feet in front of hubby which is unusual since I’m not a fast walker, but the atmosphere between the two of us was strained, to say the least.
Just as we reached a rocky patch of beach that I knew I would be unable to navigate – even with my walking poles, hubby gestured that we should turn back.
“We’d better get back before the downpour,” he said, and that’s when it dawned on me. Here I was with my padded waterproof coat, woollen mittens, and wide-brimmed wax hat, and hubby was just wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and wellies. He was dressed for a mild Autumnal day – without rain.
“Why didn’t you wear a coat?” I asked, wondering why the hell he hadn’t put on the new coat I’d brought him for Christmas.
“Because I don’t need one,” he said matter-of-factly.
Well blow me down! I had a flashback to when my kids were little and refused to wear their winter coats causing endless arguments, and it dawned on me that this was what I was missing. My husband is really a big kid who has never grown up. I held back from saying what I used to say to my kids: “Well, don’t blame me if you catch bloody pneumonia,” for I knew it would cause an argument, with the risk of all my bitchy thoughts spewing from my mouth in a vile stream of contempt.
So, you see, whilst I know my thoughts have been somewhat unsympathetic, I do feel quite proud of myself for not committing murder this Christmas. As with everything, it will pass, and my hubby will be healthy again and back to his usual, generous, and kind self. Me, on the other hand? I will probably get my come-uppance with a bout of covid (which I haven’t had yet), some other variety of flu or even bloody pneumonia. Perhaps all three! And no, I won’t be expecting any sympathy!