If I could point to one event that would single-handedly define my marriage, it would be the time I vomited on the ceiling.
I had just had my wisdom teeth removed, and woke up from a post-anesthesia nap with the kind of nausea that makes it clear that no matter how close the bathroom is, it's still a couple of miles too far from the bed.
But no matter; I had to get there, and fast. I hit the ground groggy but running, knowing that every second counted.
En route, the first act came up, and I held my hand over my mouth to contain everything, still bumping my way down the hall as urgently as my sluggish brain and legs would permit.
But just moments before I reached the bathroom sink, act two arrived, and the pressure behind it hit act one like a fire hose. Both act one and act two shot out from my hand, following whatever trajectory my splayed fingers charted for it.
Which is how I managed to barf all over the bathroom: On the floor, the walls, behind the shower curtain, and yes, up there on the ceiling.
My husband followed me into the room, solicitously helped me back to bed, and cleaned up the mess.
We had been married three weeks, and I knew I’d landed myself a keeper.
There are a lot of philosophies about how to take the measure of a man. “The measure of a man is the company he keeps.” “The measure of a man is the number of folks attending his funeral.” “The measure of a man is how well he provides for his family.”
Well, in this family, the barf stories pretty much tell it all.
Like the time our oldest was 18 months old, and we were at my parents’ ward where my brother was blessing his first baby. I have a very large extended family, and we took up enough benches that my husband and my dad ended up sitting together across the aisle from most of us. They had our little guy with them.
Right in the middle of the sacrament, without any warning whatsoever, David threw up. Knowing that this was the kind of event that could clear the chapel, possibly for weeks, both my husband and dad worked frantically to limit the distribution. Dad took a hit to the sleeve, which, given the fact that he nearly has a stroke when a popsicle gets too close to his arm, was an act worthy of a Purple Heart.
But my husband was the real hero: He opened his jacket, put David’s face down, and had him barf into all the inside pockets of his suit and shirt.
Then he got up and hustled out the door, dripping but victorious.
This was the ward in which my husband and I grew up, and every person in the room had known him since he was a child. But they had never fully appreciated his selfless nobility until that moment. People still talk about it at wedding receptions and mission farewells, when my parents and my in-laws run into veterans of that fateful day.
I won’t go into the catalog of upswallow events to which my husband has dutifully responded. Suffice to say, he’s always been part of the first wave (so to speak), removing pajamas, pulling sheets off the bed, and attempting the impossible task of extracting apparently ineffective Pepto Bismol from mattress covers.
I, on the other hand, tended to take the kids’ inability to locate the loo as something of a personal attack. And I chose passive resistance, an act which may have helped Gandhi neutralize the British Empire but which didn’t do much to get grilled cheese sandwich out of my son's hair.
After 20 minutes of going it alone, my husband would finally come back to the bed and ask if I'd bring him some towels. I would do it, but I wasn’t pleasant about it. To this day I marvel that he didn’t toss me into the dumpster along with the sheets.
Barfing up pizza, barfing up orange soda, barfing while camping, barfing while driving, barfing while someone else was barfing in some kind of twisted display of solidarity – my family has done it all. And my good husband has always been there to scramble for the bowl, dump out the cooler, or toss back the grocery bag he'd packed for just such emergencies, all in the battle to subdue the enemy and save the day.
What is truly ironic is that in the 24 years we've been married, he has never vomited in public. This valiant soldier in the war against all things regurgitated has himself ALWAYS made it to the bathroom in time. I’ve never had to so much as hand him a tissue; the spill was contained, the world safe for democracy.
There are probably a lot more poetic ways to pay tribute to this guy I’m ‘equally yoked’ with. Lyric sonnets dedicated to his kindness, his hard work, his profound faith, and his astonishing ability to compartmentalize his life to the degree that he can raid a strip club in the morning, go out on splits with the missionaries in the evening, and hold hands with me in the dark, laughing about something one of our kids texted to him earlier that day. I’ve known him my whole life, and he’s still the best person I’ve ever met. He keeps us safe, he keeps us sheltered, and he keeps us happy.
All qualities worthy of better prose than I’ll ever be capable of producing.
But there is nothing that says “This Guy Is One In A Million” like his unflinching courage upon hearing that gag, that retch, those terrifying words, “I think I’m gonna barf.”
Superman has his cape. My man has his suit coat, open and ready to take a spewing for the team.
Happy Father’s Day, honey.