Friday, June 19, 2009

My Hero

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.


InkMom said...

I soooooo wish I was in some state other than pregnant right now. Thanks.

I have always, for some reason, been on the receiving end of all things vomit related my entire life. I remember distinctly being thrown upon by my brother, and hopping in the shower fully clothed. Twice. And then my other brother. And at least once by each of my children. Luckily, I have a husband a lot like yours. In the thirteen years I've known him, excluding exercise-induced vomiting after rugby practice at BYU, he has thrown up one time.

Thank goodness there are, actually, a few good men out there willing to take their marital (vomital) responsibilities seriously!

Kristina P. said...

I knew my husband was a keeper when I was the first one to pass gass, and he thought it was adorable. Not anymore.

Mallory said...

Unfortunately, my husband missed out big on the whole superhero barf tolerance. It sure is a good thing he shines in other areas, like back massages and making the whole house spotless in under 2 hours.

Melanie J said...

You know, I totally get this. Baby G has taken to puking when he coughs or cries too hard lately, which is a lot. And this isn't cute baby spit up. This is big boy vomit. And I'll be holding him while he unloads all over me only to have my husband take him, all barf covered and everything, and let him finish the job on him. And then he cleans up. What a guy. No, what a MAN.

Brooke said...

Unfortunately (??) I don't have any barf stories to share, because all 4 of my kids seem to have been born with solid iron stomachs and don't spew. Ever. Not even spit up as babies.

But I'll be forwarding this on to my husband and saying "If our kids ever do decide to take up barfing, I hope this is the sort of husband you'll be." :-)

Becca said...

That is a beauty of a tribute. I hope he appreciates it - you know, knowing how much you appreciate him!

Good men. Gotta love them.

Joel said...

Awww...a man that will deal with vomit is a precious jewel indeed. My husband is not one of those men. At least not where the children are concerned. That is 100% my job. But, when I'm pregnant and vomiting 20x per day, he willingly cleans up after me. That's true love, right there.

InkMom said...

I just thought of this choice story and had to share . . .

A year or so ago ConMan was upchuckingly sick. We thought we were out of the woods, but as CPod played on the living room rug with ConMan, the poor kid got the look like he was going to lose it again. Just as he turned an awful shade of green, CPod, with as intent a look as I have ever seen on his face, grabbed ConMan under the shoulders and held him over his head as he sprinted to the bathroom.

Too bad his noble efforts didn't pay off. Instead of the confining the barf to the more easily cleaned surfaces, what he did instead was create a human vomit cannon that spewed all over the hardwood floor, walls, toys scattered all over the place, and some clean laundry. I mean, CPod is 6'5" and ConMan was 6 inches above his head . . . imagine the damage you could do from that towering height. It was priceless. And if I hadn't been so thoroughly grossed out, I would have laughed. A lot.

And guess what? He cleaned it all up, too. Every last drop. What a man!

tammy said...

Great story.

Makes me want to make sure all of my hubby's suitcoats have deep pockets.

You got a keeper there for sure.

Debbie said...

That was such an unexpected story but so endearing all the same. :) Happy Fathers day to your hubby!

The Garden of Egan said...

That was tender! You definitely got a keeper. My hubby is that way too. Back in the olden days (older than yours) my firstborn was in diapers....cloth diapers no less. I had to keep rubber glove by the toilet just to get the deed done. I would be dry-heaving. My hubby would get so tired of it and he'd come and rescue me, gloveless no less.
And now here I am a nurse. There are still things that get me wretching. In fact, I'm thinking of your hubby with warm baby barf in his suit coat pocket and I'm feeling the urge to wretch.....

gotta go................

charrette said...

I agree -- that is indeed the measure of a man. Our youngest managed a vomitfest of the epic proportions you described...and on Christmas morning, just as I finished wrapping the last package and crawled into bed. My hubby got up and took care of it. Heroic, in that moment, like yours. They are both keepers.

And your stories were hilarious. (Oh, my word, those pockets...!)

Beka said...

I have no words.

In Freaking Credible!!

Lisa Loo said...

Truer words were never spoken! Forget the flowery sentiments--the reality of dealing with me and what I will and will not handle---thats the measure of a man--amen!! Thanx for the smile and the rememberance of why I love me my man.

Oh yeah--totally snorted on the fact that the blessing day massacre is the stuff of kill me...

AS Amber said...

I asked mom and dad if they'd read your latest post today and they said they hadn't and I told them it was about Romeo and being the throw up hero and the first thing dad said was, "oh, well there was that time in church when David...". Too funny!

When I was married to Scott I can remember having Hayden throw up several times in the night and me being up doing laundry, changing crib sheets, bathing Hayden...all while Scott snoozed through the whole thing.

Avery will puke, make a little mess on her way to the bathroom, clean it up and tell me about it in the morning. No joke.

As for Harley and Tavis? I'm not sure yet. I have a feeling Tav'll be a champ, though. He's got a strong gut for stuff like that.

You've definitely got a keeper!

Happy Father's Day, DeNae's husband!

Mommy said...

What a wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing. I, too, married a hero and it was the best decision I ever made.

Happy Father's Day!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

hMatt totally handles the puke at our house, and I love him for it. A touch of OCD helps, too. It blows my mind how the man can sleep through about anything, but if he hears come in the room and start to wretch, he'll start out of bed and dive across the room to point the victim in the right direction and save the carpet. Maybe he needs a cape.... :)

myimaginaryblog said...

I am sooo glad I'm *not* pregnant while reading this.

Those are heroic deeds, for sure. I think *I'll* now start telling the suitcoat-as-barf-bag story at wedding receptions and reunions.

Melissa said...

You have a solid one there girl! My man always did barf duty cause he can't smell. Simple.

Michaela Stephens said...

I had to read that pocket-puke story to my husband. Loved it. My husband has done his own brand of service to clean up my grossness, which I will not inflict on you.

Hooray for strong men!