Role reversal exercise gets mixed reviews

Over the years at our house, the household duties have been split between the Secretary of Health and Human Services and myself. I’m no

Tom West, West Words

t saying the duties are evenly split, but they work for us.

Recently, however, we had a brief try at role reversal, brought on by necessity.

The Secretary came down with a bum knee last spring, and, after ignoring it for a couple of months didn’t work, she had it checked out, and it was determined she needed surgery.

Over our years together, I’ve had a few minor procedures in an OR, but the last time the Secretary was hospitalized, it was for childbirth.

This time, unfortunately, the choice was to live the rest of your life in pain or see if a surgeon can fix it.

The preparations for surgery required her not to use aspirin or ibuprofen for the seven days leading up to surgery. The pain became more intense, and I tried to step up to the plate to help, taking over some of her daily chores. For example, in the past, she usually washed the evening dishes, and I wiped them and put them away. I told her not to worry about it; I would do both.

I kept thinking that if she sat more, she would be in less pain and less likely to do further damage to herself. My thinking was flawed. I’d wash and dry the dishes and put them away, only to turn around and find her out in the garden weeding with her hoe or trimming with the weed whacker.

I began thinking that she was not an ideal patient because she refused to sit still.

Then came the surgery itself, done on an outpatient basis. Everything went well. I got her home. She made it up the stairs to bed and slept most of the rest of the day. I brought her food as requested — none of which qualified as a complete meal.

The following day, I was determined to wait on her, but mid-morning she came down the stairs and camped out on the couch in front of the TV. I made her lunch, but then came the first big challenge.

I was sent to the grocery store by myself with a list of items to purchase. This was not quite a first in our relationship. However, I was disqualified from that task many years ago because I came home with too many products that were the wrong size, the wrong brand, or in the category of “What were you thinking? Nobody’s going to eat this.”

Once in a great while, I was allowed to accompany her, but the Secretary’s attitude generally has been that she can get it done more quickly if she goes by herself. I was willing to be helpful, but the way I looked at it was, if my services are unwanted, I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do than go grocery shopping.

So I had my list, along with 10 coupons that I had cut from the paper. I went to the store, and found every item on the list.

When I went to check out, the young man who was running the till asked me if I was part of their rewards program. I said, “Are you kidding me? I haven’t done this in about 35 years, so ‘no.’”

But the young man hung with me and asked, “How about your wife?”

I hesitated, then said, “I have no idea … probably.”

He asked for my phone number, he typed it in and presto, along with the $10 saved with the coupons, we got another $5 off the bill. Who knew?

Feeling proud of myself for not forgetting anything, I returned home, and other than the big, honkin’ six-pack of bath soap I bought, the reviews were mostly positive. In fact, the chicken patties were deemed so acceptable, that she decided we should try them for supper.

So I prepared the meal while she rested. The instructions on the chicken patties said to pour a tablespoon of oil in the pan before frying them. I saw that the pan was supposed to be “non-stick” but we don’t own a non-stick pan. I figured I would flip them frequently to keep them from sticking.

Frequent flipping solved the problem, the chicken patties were thoroughly cooked on both sides and turned out delicious. However, when I went to clean the frying pan, the oil had turned into some type of super glue, and the charred remains were stuck to the pan.

I spent 20 minutes with a scrub brush that evening, and another 20 the next morning trying to remove it. Did you know that if you combine vinegar with dishwashing soap, they tend to crystallize? That’s neither here nor there. I don’t know what the half-life of charred cooking oil stuck to stainless steel is, but I suspect it is longer than a human’s life span.

A few days later, we became the proud owners of a non-stick frying pan. The secretary’s knee is making a rapid recovery. And life is good.

But I’m thinking my score on this role reversal exercise came up a few points shy of the honor roll.


Tom West can be reached by email at [email protected]