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A Lighter View … Never give a man a bell

July 1, 1993

A Lighter View … Never give a man a bell

By Karen M. Morris, Humorist

When it comes to profound thoughts, I tend to spit out mental hairballs. But while skiing with my husband, I experienced a latchkey moment.

My enlightenment came after falling and tearing all the ligaments in my ankle. Not wishing to die and be eaten by mutant squirrels, I splinted my leg with ski poles and slalomed to a hospital.

As I hobbled out of the emergency room on crutches, it didn’t take me long to locate my husband. He’d burned his tongue on a latte, and his screams were scaring everyone in the waiting room. After agonizing pleas from the visitors, Wayne was eventually hospitalized for observation. That’s when I had my epiphany: “All pain is subjective…it just depends on who the subject is.”

Yesterday, Wayne witnessed a co-worker display an episode of thunderous nose honking. According to my husband, this aggressive quasi-sneeze launched some unsavory germs that attacked him. The man was sick by nightfall. I tried to be understanding, when he declared my supper was making him nauseous and then complained the ice cubes were too cold. But when he prostrated himself on the floor and began yelling for the Lord to take him, I insisted he go to bed…upstairs and away from me.

Caring for a man is exhausting, and yet, I felt guilty for abandoning him. So, I gave Wayne a bell to ring if he needed anything. (Stress can make a woman do incredibly stupid things.) Before I could blink, the bell started ringing. I raced to his bedside, grabbed his hand and asked, “Are you OK, darling?”

“I can’t sleep.”

“You’ve only been up here three minutes. Maybe if you tried getting into bed, it would help.” I tucked him in and sauntered downstairs.

Rrrring. “Who’s downstairs?”

“Nobody is now,” I smiled. “We’re all up here with you.” Kissing him good-night, I left.

Rrrring. “I’m hungry.”

“I thought you were nauseous.”

“I am, but I’m not letting this cold win.”

“Win what? The leftover meatloaf?” I scurried downstairs, made chicken broth, and raced back.

“I hate to complain,” Wayne said, sniffing the undissolved bouillon cube. “But I’m too sick to drink this. Do we have any popcorn?”

I drank the broth. Who knew when I’d get nourishment again? By the time I’d returned with the popcorn, Wayne had destroyed the bedroom. He’d ripped the sheets off the bed, knocked over my clock radio, and the floor was littered with crumpled tissues like golf balls at a driving range. I raked the carpet and air lifted the garbage from the room.

Rrrring. “It’s happened! It’s happened!” he shouted. “I’ve lost my hearing.” After surveying the disaster site, I told him that the TV was on mute. I clicked on the sound, squeezed his hand and said I had to go…our lawn gnome needed a backrub.

Rrrring. “If anyone calls, don’t bother me. I’m too sick to talk.”

“Trust me, I’ll try not to make a nuisance of myself,” I promised. Then I grabbed the phone and marched out.

Rrrring. “Do I look like I have a fever?” he asked. I told him I’d need a photograph of a fever before I could make a judgment call like that. Patting his forehead, I made a beeline for the door.

Rrrring. “My throat hurts. Can you see anything?” he asked, handing me a flashlight. The only thing I saw was some popcorn kernels. When he insisted I check again, I told him he had some plaque buildup on his back molars and needed to floss more. I closed his mouth and bolted out of the room.

Rrrring. “Remember when Lynne was so sick and was throwing up and light-headed? Well, I think I have the same thing.”

“She was pregnant,” I shouted. I gathered all the fresh trash, told him I needed some rest, and dashed out of the room.

Rrrring. “I’m going blind,” Wayne said rubbing his eyes. “Everything is blurry and my eyes are burning.”

“Quit touching your face. You’re getting popcorn salt in your eyes,” I said, running for the door.

Rrrring. “I think you should call the doctor,” he said, curling up in the fetal position. “It’s getting worse. When I lay on my side, pain shoots across my chest. I think it’s my appendix.”

I just stared at him in disbelief. “You don’t have an appendix and that pain you’re having is the popcorn dish. You’re laying on it,” I said, yanking the bowl out from under him.

Desperate, I called the doctor and asked what to do. “Uh huh. Yes, he’s had it ever since he went upstairs. But that seems so drastic. Isn’t there anything else that I can do that’s non-violent? Uh huh. OK, I won’t. Thank you.”

“What did he say?” Wayne asked, bracing himself for the worst.

“He said ‘never give a man a bell.’”

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