I'm propped on a stack of pillows and sweating out a fever. I have no idea from where this freight train emanated, but it's bearing down on me, and judging by my roasting self I'd say the coal is stoked. I'm glowing pink and freezing my ass off, the thermometer permanently affixed to the corner of my mouth, each beep signaling that I need to remember how to slow down, something I suck at. I feel devoid of life and bereft of soul. It's the kind of sick that reminds you of that old cliché: If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. I'm feeling fairly destitute.
Still, I'm determined to get this out before the sickness completely swallows me up. If I feel any worse this could be my last post of the week, and this pile of pillows inspires me. Allow me to rewind a week and explain...
I have a good, patient, calm, kind wife. She's the most laid back person I know, and it takes much to ruffle her. She is a great mother to our dogs, tolerating just about anything they dish out - and they are big, heavy, rough dogs. She adores and cares for them when I am away, and watches them like a hawk. I never wonder for their safety when they are in her care, and that is something I do not take for granted. I am fortunate and grateful.
So when she started screaming at them I knew something was amiss.
Ok, that's a bit of a jump. At first, I just noticed a slightly elevated tone in her voice. That was on a Sunday. Monday came and went with only a slight increase in volume. By Tuesday we were all hiding under furniture, her yell pursuing each of us, my office desk disclosing the fact that the delivery driver left me a keepsake wad of gum for a rainy day. It was watermelon, yummy. Delicious as it was, it did not distract from the obvious: the Mrs. was not at all herself.
By Wednesday I figured it out. After a brief period of silence I took off my earmuffs and ventured out from under the desk for a look around. The moment my foot touched the hallway carpet I was had. "GOOD MORNING PEANUT!!" she cried, the spittle showering my forehead feeling hot as I shook my head to stop the ringing in my ears. I held up a hand to prevent her from issuing another bark in such close proximity. "WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME TO TALK TO THE HAND MY LOVE?"
I was confused but hopeful. She didn't actually seem angry. She wasn't saying anything remotely out of line. She was just loud and screechy, the usual lilt of her voice replaced by a banshee/fog horn hybrid. I smiled at her and reminded her to say it, and to avoid spraying it if at all possible. She stared back at me, her expression blank, and did not utter a word. I was standing on her right. I walked around her to her left side and took a moment to remind her that I was going to have her banned from the local shopping malls for shoplifting, something she has never done. She belted me. The Mrs. takes her fashion seriously, and such a declaration would normally get me tied up in the basement. I was happy to escape with a smack.
She was completely deaf in her right ear, or very nearly so. I was pumped. In order to be absolutely certain that my life was about to become the dream that all men pursue, I stepped back to her right and issued one final test. "You know Sunshine," I quipped "I really think it's time we bought a solid gold, bejeweled remote control for me to keep next to my recliner. It's only two grand." She smiled and nodded like a newly arrived foreigner with zero comprehension of the English language. I looked to the sky, issued a thank you and ran for my credit card. Cloud nine was mine to ride and I was not about to waste time. I fired up my laptop and QVC, and got to work.
The next few days were a blur, the fog from my newly installed, 12 person, champagne glass shaped, neon illuminated hot tub clouding my vision of the trampoline and baseball diamond that I had just put in. Fortunately my new French Maid was there to wipe down the widows. Unfortunately, the Mrs. began to catch on. "WHAT IS UP WITH THAT HOOKER AND THE SQUEEGEE, AND WHY ARE YOU BLOWING ALL OF OUR MONEY?!?" I gave a convincing performance as I explained that she had given me express permission for each of my indulgences. She asked me to speak up.
I figured what the heck - I had already enjoyed myself at her expense. I drew a deep breath as I circled to her right and bellowed "YOU SAID IT WAS OK, AND IF YOU THINK THIS IS SOMETHING WAIT UNTIL THAT TRACTOR TRAILER OF CONCERT BIG SCREEN TV'S SHOWS UP! U2 GAVE ME A SERIOUS DEAL ON THEM!!" My voice echoed throughout the house, sound waves propelling the pets out of the dog room and down the hallway. We ducked as they flew past.
She looked at me like I was wearing a cat sweater. "HEY, I CAN"T HEAR YOU! COME TO THINK OF IT I CAN'T HEAR A DAMN THING. I NEED TO GET TO A DOCTOR." I protested, but with little effect; because of course, she couldn't hear me. I wept openly at the notion of the demise of my new fantasy existence, but agreed that it was probably best that she get her hearing checked out. I scribbled the same on a post-it note and handed it to her. She e-mailed her doc and had a confirmed appointment by the next day. I went to work in my new stretch Hummer, the full-sized refrigerator stocked to the gills with Cristal failing to ease my troubled mind as I watched the dream slip away.
I have seen/lived/experienced some crazy things in my life. Just dig through the archives here if you doubt me. But nothing prepared me for the call I got at the office that morning, my dancing, vibrating Blackberry tearing my attention away from a mountain of unanswered order confirmation e-mail. As much as I wanted to confirm my desire to have a hand made ebony and silver inlay Xbox stand delivered to my door, the number on my caller ID made me think better of it. I answered and cringed, my heart sinking at the perfectly reasonable tone of my wife's voice. She was fixed. I was toast. "Check this crazy crap out." She remarked. "I was about one day away from a serious ear infection, but I'll be fine now. Any idea what happened? You get three guesses."
Giving me three guesses at anything is a dangerous proposition. "Try this," I said "maybe your anti-aging cream got into your ear, and your eardrum took a trip backward in time like Benjamin Button, until eventually it almost disappeared!" The click at the other end of the line told me that guess numbers two and three would have to wait. I deleted my order confirmation e-mail between sobs, survived the workday, and drove home in troubled silence.
The dogs greeted me upon my arrival, and for the first time in days they seemed at peace. One must imagine their relief at having their good, patient, calm, kind human mom back. I found a spot for my laptop bag as they engulfed me in their typical blur-o-fur, six o'clock welcome home ritual. I saw the Mrs. enter the room from the corner of my eye. She was holding something and laughing. The dogs dispersed as I greeted her with a kiss and asked what was so funny.
She offered her hand and turned up her palm, opening it slowly and allowing me to digest as she explained. "Remember that couch pillow the dogs chewed a couple of weeks ago?" I did - it was her favorite, and she limped by with it for a few days while shopping for a suitable replacement. Each morning I would collect little puffs of pillow stuffing that had spilled from the holes in it while she napped. It was actually very cute. It looked like she had joined the dogs in killing a stuffie.
"Well according to the doc, a little piece of this here pillow fuzz worked its way into my ear and wound down my ear canal, trapping moisture in it and blocking my hearing." An innocent looking little piece of pillow stuffing rested in her hand. I stared at it in wonder. "In other words," she reminded me "the dogs did it."
Our usual, peaceful, sensible existence has nearly been restored. There is a lovely and inexpensive shrub where the hot tub used to be. The trampoline is gone, and the nine ATVs that decorate my garage are on Craigslist. Dog nose prints on the windows remind me of the unfortunate loss of my maid. My dreams of financial recovery via a part time, supplemental job were dashed when I was forced to resign from my new position as coach of the UVM cheerleader squad. I'll probably never retire. It's bittersweet, but I'm adjusting.
My friends ask me if it's tough to have everything you've ever dreamed of, only to lose it as quickly as it was gained. I think not. If I'm lucky and play my cards right, I may even convince the Mrs. to let me keep an ATV or two. It's not as though the experience left me without a very interesting story to share, and share I will. To be honest, I expect to tear up a little every time I think back on these days, and I'll probably always be a little sentimental as I remind anyone who will listen to me that for two short, sweet weeks in April of 2010, this man lived the dream. And was married to a real screamer.