I saw this meme last week: “During childbirth, a woman’s pain is so intense that she can almost imagine what it’s like when a man has a cold.” I am very, very lucky. Joel is rarely if ever, sick, and when he is, he actually retains most of his humanity.
No, Joel is tough when it comes to the common cold or the odd bout of stomach upset. It’s when there’s an injury involved that he tends to overreact.
Joel’s a tall man. Our house is an older home with many nooks and crannies and ornate, but low hanging trim. At least once a day, he bonks his head on a piece of trim that has been there since 1904, when our house was built. As a result, our children’s ears are treated to bursts of creative profanity loud enough to carry into each and every one of those nooks and crannies. His vocal outbursts seem to ricochet off walls, sweep through rooms, and bounce off ceilings, managing to find their way outside only after making contact with every eardrum under the age of 16 in the house.
When we were first married, my reactions matched the intensity of his outbursts. Based on the decibel level, I assumed that a trip to the ER was imminent. I only hoped I could get to the basement where the sound originated, somehow carry his 235-pound body (this was before the Dr. Pepper fast) up the stairs, drag him to the van and get him loaded without hurting him even worse than he obviously already was. After nearly injuring myself in my effort to reach my poor, wounded husband, I would find him calmly sorting through cans of paint in the storage room. Here’s how our conversations typically went:
Me: “My God, honey. What on earth happened?”
Joel: “What do you mean?”
Me: “I heard that crash and the sound of breaking glass, followed by the ‘eff’ word used as an adjective, a noun, an adverb, a verb, and two interjections.”
Joel: “Huh . . . Hey, where’s that leftover red paint we used in the upstairs hall?”
Now that we’ve been married nearly a decade, I’ve learned to temper my reactions somewhat. Usually, I’ll look up from my book for a moment and cock my ear for the sound of a crying child. If I don’t hear that, I’ll finish the chapter I’m on, and then wander down to the basement. There’s some wiring and electrical breakers in the storage room, so I’ll do a sweep of its perimeter to make sure his electrocuted body isn’t on the floor.
If the bathroom door is closed, I’ll listen outside for a second before knocking. No sense in risking exposure to noxious fumes, incapacitating myself, and preventing a potential rescue. Before you judge, may I remind you, you’re always supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first.
Usually, I’ll find that Joel is just relaxing in the bathroom (hopefully not with a bag of chips), and I’ll return to my book. Occasionally, though, I’ll get sucked into a project, and end up in the basement for hours, cleaning the storage room or organizing outgrown clothes and toys.
That’s why, a couple weeks ago, I tried to avoid responding to the profanity-laced bellows altogether. That backfired big-time though, as he actually had cut open his head, and since I didn’t rush to his aid, he used our best white guest towels to wipe up the blood.
I was worried that Joel might have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, as a result of repeated head injuries. So, I looked up the symptoms of CTE on Dr. Google. Though he’s always struggled with short term memory problems, it turns out that’s just one of the symptoms. He doesn’t show signs of depression, apathy, impulsivity or anxiety. Actually, after further investigation, I’m thinking I probably have CTE. My memory loss is so bad I can’t even recall hitting my head very hard.
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Caroline Rae Strickland, graduate student at Fort Hays State University, recorded and engineered this episode’s special effects.