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Monday, October 7, 2013

I Am That Marshmallow

"I know it hurts, but you can't have any more pain pills right now. It's only been three hours since you had your last dose, and it's supposed to be every four to six hours. Sorry." This was what I said to Trent several times in the days after he had surgery on his thumb a few weeks ago. I took to writing down the times when I gave him his pain pills, because his pain was sometimes telling his brain that it had been six or eight hours, when it really hadn't. And anyone can forget, so it made sense. It's a tough position to be in; you are the caretaker for someone who has just had surgery. You want them to be comfortable and catch up on their rest, but you also don't want to screw up their body by letting them take their medicine too soon. Sometimes you feel like you are thought of as the cruelest person in the world. Sometimes you start to feel like you are the cruelest person in the world.

It isn't as if we haven't traveled this road before. This is, to the best of my recollection, the nineteenth surgery Trent has had in the fourteen years of our marriage. Some have been more serious than others. Some have resulted in a lot of pain. This one, with his dominant hand being immobilized, has been both painful and frustrating. I can identify with this because several years ago I broke my right wrist. There were lots of things that were challenging to accomplish with my smart hand out of commission. One of the most frustrating, though, was eating. I could handle a fork or spoon using my left hand, but how do you cut meat one-handed? One evening while I still had my cast on, we went out for dinner and I ordered a steak. It wasn't until it came to the table that I realized it wasn't the best choice. It really screws with your head when you are a fully-functioning adult, and you have to ask someone to cut your food for you. In public, or in private, it can diminish you, make you feel like you are less of a person, because you are unable to accomplish such a basic task.

And now Trent has been dealing with those feelings. When asked what he would like to eat, he waits a bit before he responds. I know he is thinking of not only what sounds good to eat, but how simple or difficult it will be to eat it. And it's very hard to ask someone to cut your food or help you get the last few bites of food off your plate or out of your bowl, or whatever. Heck, even eating cereal can be a challenge when one of your tools, your faithful hands, is not working. So I have been trying to be conscious of these challenges when I prepare meals. I know it will somehow taste better to him if he is able to do it all on his own.

The day of the surgery was one of the first days that Colorado made the national news this September because of heavy rains and flooding. It is that kind of weather that makes you want to eat comfort foods like soup and chili and roasted things. On this particular evening, as I walked into the kitchen, I thought, "Boy, I could really use a toasted marshmallow right now." Of course there were no marshmallows in the house. There seldom are. I have been known, in a moment of marshmallow madness, to spear and toast a Peep. These are very dangerous, though. That sugar coating turns into molten lava when exposed to heat, so you have to exercise great self-control during the cooling-down period. If you don't, your taste buds will be scorched off and you won't have much of a taste for anything for a few days.

I did, however, have a jar of marshmallow creme in the cupboard. Aha! This would work just fine! I turned on the front burner of the stove and swirled a dinner fork in the marshmallow fluff. As I held it over the heat, it tried to slip through the times of the fork, but I was too clever to let that happen. As soon as it began to brown, I was turning the fork to toast the other side. And let me say right here that I have no problems with eating a marshmallow that has gone and gotten itself flambĂ©ed. I actually like the delicate burnt crust which hides the creamy melted marshmallow inside. Yum!

As I was letting the first forkful of toasted marshmallow creme cool to eating temperature, I had A Moment. I looked at the fork in my hand and thought, "I AM this toasted marshmallow." It perfectly represented the person I had needed to be during the last couple of days, and, in fact, the person I often am. I may be stern with Trent when he tries to wheedle pain pills out of me before it's time for another dose. But, on the other hand, I will try to do my best to make his life easier and sweeter as he deals with his very inconvenient situation. And in life, I often have a hard and tough-looking, tough-acting exterior that covers my softer, more vulnerable side. Yes, I am that marshmallow, I decided. And then I ate it.