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Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm a bad husband

I sometimes get frustrated with my wife for holding long, detailed deliberations regarding important topics and decisions... entirely inside her head.  I get frustrated because after 20 minutes of silence, during which I assumed she was reading or working on her computer, she will suddenly blurt out, "So, I think the best thing to do would be to have them both attend camps closer to home this sumer."

What I didn't realize was that during those 20 minutes of silence she had been vigorously debating various camp options for the big kids... weighing interests/requests, coordinating pick-up times and carpools with her own work schedule... budgeting fees... figuring out wardrobe/footwear options and the possible need for additional equipment... and a hundred other important factors. 

So, when she blurted out her conclusion... it made perfect sense to her.  But it made absolutely no sense to me since I wasn't privy to any of the internal discussion leading up to her pronouncement.

I'd have to say that these silent deliberations of hers are arguably the most common source of 'unkind words' that pass between us.

Then came yesterday. 

I got a call from my mom in the early afternoon with the news that my brother was on his way to the hospital... more than likely for surgery due to what sounded like appendicitis.

My mom didn't really have much solid information other than to tell me that my little bro had been suffering for hours with severe abdominal pain and had gone to the hospital after having decided that he couldn't make it through the night. 

The call from my mom had come as I was walking into a meeting... a meeting of which I have no recollection. 

What I do remember was sitting and thinking that my baby brother (8 years my junior) doesn't belong in the hospital on an operating table.  Forget that he is married with two kids and living/working in the SF Bay area.  In my mind he is a carefree, tow-headed toddler who follows me around like a puppy dog.  He idolizes me and will do literally anything to catch and hold my attention.  He will run and fetch my shoes if I pretend to time him with my watch... and when he thinks I'm not looking, I catch him trying to imitate the way I stand... wear my baseball hat... drink from a glass.

I didn't get any more updates for the remainder of the afternoon and went about my business in a complete fog.  At some point I must have done a bit of on-line research about appendicitis to see what risks are involved and to reassure myself that this is a no-sweat procedure... like removing a wisdom tooth or setting a bone after a fall.  But all I found myself reading were horror stories about burst appendixes, septic abdomens and people ignoring the symptoms until it was, sadly, too late. 

I don't remember much about my drive home.  I'm sure I chatted with the people in the car as we drove along the seam between the Judean Desert and the Hevron hills, but my mind was sitting in the waiting room of a California hospital, trying to find out about my brother... asking nurses and clerks if they had any news... waiting for a doctor to come striding out from behind swinging doors to give me news about a little blond boy who hadn't existed for more than three-and-a-half decades.

Zahava and I had made plans to meet a blogger connection from the states for coffee in the German Colony at 8PM, so when I got home I tried to focus only on that.  He is the fiance of a blogger I read and I wanted very much to be a good host. 

The hour or so before we headed into Jerusalem was filled with oohing and aahing over Gilad's silver medal that he'd won in the national volleyball championship that afternoon... chasing Yonah around the livingroom... talking with Ariella about her day... going out to pick up pizza for the kids to have for dinner. 

Yet all that time I was almost completely inside my own head,... wondering why I hadn't heard from someone in the states about how my brother was doing.  I wanted to call, but a part of me didn't want to admit to anyone how scared shitless nervous I was. 

Make all the jokes you want about middle aged men becoming morbid... but this is the time of life when death makes that critical transition from being something that happens in history books and to other people, to something that happens to everyone... particularly those you love.

As Zahava and I drove into Jerusalem we might have talked about the kids' plans for the summer...  and about weddings and bar mitzvahs we will be attending in the coming weeks.  Who knows what the hell we talked about?  Surely not me, because I was back in the hospital waiting room, breathing in the cloying smell of antiseptic and fear... watching other people brace themselves for the bad news that was waiting patiently to jump out from behind swinging doors and blow their worlds apart. 

Every so often people would be called in beyond those swinging doors... never to be seen again.  But the only news that ever came out was carried by weary surgeons in rumpled, sweaty scrubs and discarded masks that sagged uselessly around their necks.  A few mumbled words... "extremely serious condition"... "did everything we could"... "sorry for your loss"... followed by the inevitable wail of disbelief.

While all this was playing out in my head, we had a perfectly lovely chat with our guest (and one of his relatives) over cappuccinos and iced teas.  I think (hope) I held up my end of the conversation, but I'm really not sure.

Another blogger friend (who I hadn't even known was in the country) made an appearance out of the fog and sat down at a nearby table sipping an iced drink and eating an impossibly large piece of cake.  We exchanged a few pleasantries (I hope) but I don't recall exactly what we said, or why he was here.

When my cell phone rang I wasn't even fully aware of having answered it until I heard my daughter's voice on the other end saying,  "Hi Abba.  Grandma just called to say that uncle Benjamin is out of surgery and everything went OK.  What is she talking about?!"

I mumbled a promise to explain everything when I got home and hung up the phone.  As I turned to Zahava to give her the news I realized that I hadn't been breathing for the last hour or four.  Suddenly I was getting big, intoxicating lung-fulls of air and it was so unbeleivably refreshing that I didn't want to stop it long enough to talk.

Finally I leaned over towards Zahava and exhaled one long phrase directly into her ear, "Honey Benjamin's out of surgery everything's OK."

I figured she'd be as relieved as I was to hear the good news... so I momentarily confused by her knitted brow and the pointed question, "What do you mean he's out of surgery?  Why was he in surgery!"

It was at that moment I realized that I hadn't mentioned anything to anyone since talking to my mother.  Not to my assistant... not to my boss... not to my carpool mates... and [~smacks forehead~] not to my family!  Nobody!!!

I hurriedly brought Zahava up to speed, and for her part she took it all in stride.  But I could feel my cheeks burning at having done what I'd accused her of so many times.  Instead of pouring her decaf cinnamon latte into my lap (as she rightly should have) she simply smiled and went back to our conversation with our guests.  At that point I mostly rejoined the conversation as well... hoping against hope that nobody had noticed my previous absence.

We parted from our guests and walked back to the car through the cool evening air.  It had been an extremely hot day so the soft breeze was a welcome change.  I was also getting the hang of breathing again.  In... out... in. 

I waited during the ride home for Zahava to ask me what the hell I had been thinking, keeping Benjamin's condition to myself... but it never came. 

When we got home I answered the big kids' questions about their uncle and did my best to make it sound like a wisdom tooth or a broken wrist... a silly thing that was all in the past.  After all, why worry them?  For them, death is still something that happens in history books, not in families. [tfu, tfu, tfu]

After we climbed into bed, I waited for the other shoe to drop with Zahava.  Surely she wasn't going to let me off the hook so easily.  After all the times I'd chastised her for keeping things to herself and having entire conversations in her head without me.... oy, did I have it coming.

But the shoe never dropped.

It seems that either Zahava is the world's most understanding wife... or she has grown accustomed to having a really, really bad husband.


Posted by David Bogner on June 25, 2007 | Permalink


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Clearly you've blocked the other part of my response from your memory cache! "Ummmm.... Sweetie! It's official. YOU are not the LAST person in the family to learn things.... I am."

For the record. That. Was. My. Version. of the. Other. Shoe.

And while I am loathe to dignify the last line of the post with a response, for the sake of public clarity it isn't an "either/or" situation! I am hardly the world's most understanding wife, nor are you a really, really bad husband. Rather, I was able to empathize with your state of mind given your morbid, er, I mean quaint third-year-medical-student approach to all things health-related. I simply assessed the situation, secure in the knowledge that you would never intentionally scare the living-snot out of me like that if you hadn't been so distracted.


The. Real. Test.

Will you be so understanding the next time I intentionally-infuriate-you-with-this-nasty-habit-of-mine, uh... I mean "forget to include you in my internal conversation?"

Posted by: zahava | Jun 25, 2007 12:22:12 PM

Hi guys ... er, I don't mean to intrude, but lemme just say I was very relieved to hear that Benjamin's surgery went well. I can identify with internal conversations -- Sometimes, I am the only person I can fully understand anyway. And I can also identify with morbid medical thoughts, too. :-)

Posted by: Yaron | Jun 25, 2007 3:11:38 PM

Zahava -

When you wrote, "it isn't an 'either/or' situation" I initially assumed you'd continue with "certainly both can be true!" ...

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Jun 25, 2007 3:14:03 PM

David, I'd asked Mom if, when she had given you the news about Ben being in surgery, if she's said, "you're the last one to know!", as is the tradition in our family, but she said, she hadn't. But it seems, that it wasn't even true. Usually your wife is WAY ahead of you on these things... someone's slipping in the standings! tsk tsk tsk!

I never knew you were such a worry-wart! oy!

Posted by: val | Jun 25, 2007 3:46:16 PM

If you are a bad husband, then we should all pray for bad husbands.

Glad to hear that your brother is doing ok. It's certainly understandable to be on edge whenever anyone we love is going through something medically.

From the other side of the coffee table, I can tell you that PHD and his cousin really enjoyed visiting with you and Zahava. If you were momentarily lost in the space of your own mind, they never mentioned it.

Thank you to you and Zahava for being such wonderful hosts. We are blessed to have friends like you.

Posted by: orieyenta | Jun 25, 2007 4:04:04 PM

I love the way you two bicker. I'm also glad your brother is OK. We've had enough medical badness to last a long time.

Posted by: Albert | Jun 25, 2007 4:49:21 PM

Very glad to hear that your brother is doing well.

Posted by: SaraK | Jun 25, 2007 5:38:57 PM

A continued Refuah Shleimah to your brother.

As to the bad husband thing, well anyone who roots for the Red Sox is questionable. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Jun 25, 2007 6:29:55 PM

Hope your brother recovers soon!

Posted by: Irina | Jun 25, 2007 8:31:55 PM

Whoops...when we were speaking earlier I totally forgot to wish you a happy birthday!!!

Posted by: Noa | Jun 25, 2007 11:04:38 PM

It's true that I was eating a pretty big piece of cake but keep in mind that (1) I had hardly eaten a thing for an entire week and (2) I only ate the crust.

Glad to hear that your brother is doing well.

Posted by: mochassid | Jun 26, 2007 12:04:49 AM

You're not a "bad husband", just a guy.. and this blog is proof that in that respect you're less a guy than most of us. Good to hear that little bro' is doing OK.

Posted by: Shmiel | Jun 26, 2007 12:32:36 AM

I got your bad husband right here, pally.

We should all be as bad as your on-screen persona.


Posted by: wrymouth | Jun 26, 2007 12:52:33 AM

Glad your brother is ok, David.

Posted by: K Newman | Jun 26, 2007 2:13:31 AM

I often wish that Savage Kitten would NOT include me in the conversation. She usually needs to work something out about work and the people she deals with - people whom I do not know, and do not wish to meet.

But I'll nod and smile, and react, and about half an hour into it I'll remind her gently not to take her work home in her head.

Some people need to talk. Some don't. I have a blog. She doesn't. It works out.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Jun 26, 2007 4:02:37 AM

It's quite difficult to focus on any task at hand when someone close to one's heart is in such a situation. It was very difficult for me, at least, when I found myself in similar situations in the past.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Jun 26, 2007 4:23:36 AM

David, you don't sound like a bad husband to me at all.

I'm glad to hear that your brother is doing well. Refua shlema to him.

Posted by: Rahel | Jun 26, 2007 7:21:38 AM

zahava... Thank you for being so understanding. :-)

Yaron... As any physicians out there can confirm, a little knowledge is a dangerous - and scary - thing in the hands of laymen.

Dave (Balashon)... Let's not go there.

val... She may have (for all I know). All I remember after the phone call was a low buzzing sound in my ears.

orieyenta... Glad to hear PHD didn't pick up on my distraction.

Albert... Oy!

SaraK... Thanks. I think he is getting out of the hospital today.

Jack... glass houses, my friend. :-)

Irina... Thanks Irena. He seems to be on the mend.

Noa... When the will is read and your name isn't mention, you'll know why. :-)

mochassid... Thanks. And BTW, I think the cake just looked big sitting in front of you 'cause you're so damned skinny! :-)

Shmiel... "this blog is proof that in that respect you're less a guy than most of us". Um, if that was meant as a compliment it came out wrong. :-)

wrymouth... Just so you understand that my onscreen persona only scratches the surface of my deficiencies. :-)

K Newman... Thanks. Much appreciated.

Back of the Hill... I'm sorry, but I giggle every time I read your pet name for your 'sig-other'. Too funny.

tnspr569... Agreed.

Rahel... Nice of you to say. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 26, 2007 10:28:37 AM

Good thing Zahava didn't have to depend on you to let her know when the kids were about to be born.

Posted by: Bob | Jun 27, 2007 4:36:37 AM

I'm glad your brother's surgery went well. May he have a r'fuah shleimah.

Posted by: Shira Salamone | Jun 27, 2007 5:28:51 AM

Bob... Um, actually she did (with our last one). She was insisting that she was NOT IN LABOR when I'd been surreptitiously timing her contractions all evening. I finally called one of her friends to come over and talk some sense into her. Zahava was in the middle of the living room with her hands on her hips yelling at the two of us and insisting that she was not in labor when her water broke. :-)

Shira Salamone... Thanks, he's home and doing well.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 27, 2007 11:26:23 AM

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