In Sickness and in Health. . .

We tend to think of women as caregivers, but nearly a dozen husbands, including my own, spend considerable time each day attending to a wife with chronic health challenges. I don’t remember such a thing with the adults in my childhood, but this is real and it’s life-changing.
When my fibromyalgia began 19 years ago, I was probably in denial. Yes, I consulted doctors, but tried to stay dressed until Guy went to work. As soon as he left, I’d be in bed with the debilitating exhaustion and unexplained pain.
When he retired, no more denying.
I couldn’t travel, which many retirees have as one of their goals. Still can’t much. Guy does floors, grocery shopping, all the outdoor work. Since my recent shoulder surgery, he’s even taken over dishes, picking up prescriptions, and driving me to appointments–anything I can no longer do myself.
dishes
Doing what needs to be done.
Three of the men I’ve noticed have also dealt with their wives’ unwellness for years, coming to church alone. Their spouses at home don’t have enough energy to get dressed and even to interact with others.
Two care for a wives too ill with COPD to travel, or be out in public anymore, especially with the Covid-19 scare.
At least three of them do caretaking every evening after they get home from work because of their wives’ disabilities.
Spouses of two of the men suffer from fibromyalgia plus lupus, which dictate their lives, what normally enjoyable events they can attend.
Yet another has dealt with his wife’s doctor visits, surgeries, and recoveries for years.
One man commented that he was doing “maid duties,” since his wife suffers from neuropathy. Occasionally he travels with his buddies, but I’ll bet he comes home with a smile on his face.
As Guy does when he’s out for ice cream in a classic car with his best friend. Or a small group of them drive to “Boone for breakfast” on a Saturday morning. Or even a few days at a condo in the Ozarks for a group of husbands whose wives don’t travel well.
He always comes home.
I’ve been pondering that lately. All of these men are part of a quiet brotherhood who long ago–some over 50 years ago–took vows to be there for the long haul. They’re fulfilling those vows well.
Others can’t help but notice what blessing they are to their wives and families, all of them.
For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. . .
They always come home.
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Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – I John 3:18
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Featured image by one of the men mentioned above. He was grateful that someone had brought him the Lysol. I was also struck by the poignant hand-knitted dishrag on his sink.

35 comments

  1. Sounds like you know a few good men. They are out there. It is nice to hear comments about men like that in this day and age of continual man bashing by some. Thank you

    • A week ago I’d thought of five of them, with the mantra “he always comes home” sort of nudging me for a couple of weeks. The man who posted the Lysol can, and that hand-knitted dishrag, with his comment about “maid duty,” things with him began to add up. He’d never mentioned it before. In fact, he encourages everyone else! lump in throat

  2. Chronic illness certainly changes expectations. This past year, I’ve been struggling with debilitating arthritis in my ankle and trying to find solutions. We gave up our golf membership, but this pain isn’t nearly as big a problem as the ones you are describing. Hang on!

    • Thoughtful? I guess it was mostly finally becoming aware of the others, kind of one by one, and “he always comes home” echoing in my head for a couple of weeks.

  3. This is a lovely piece, Joy. Watching my dad the last few years of mom’s life going from being the on the go pastor while she did all of the “homemaking” to taking on her old roles to care for her was kind of heartbreaking, but beautiful. The blessing of caring husbands is one that just doesnt get talked about enough!

    • I hadn’t realized there were so many until I started thinking about it. The knitted dishrag got to me, especially because of who was using it. (He said he shed tears after I shared this post with him privately.) Heartbreaking but beautiful is a winsome way to describe it.

  4. They are humbling for all of us who have been blessed with spouses who cared for us through very tough major back & cervical fusion surgeries; then lived for next 35+ years with a man w a 35 lb limit who could no longer lift his son after 28 months age. I’m lucky like you, in sickness & health; she always comes home. Few know the heroes we love.

  5. Bravo to men like your husband and the others you mention. Society pegs women as carers – and we tend to be the primary carers for our children when they are young – yet there are several men I know too who have stepped into the breach without complaint. That is love.

  6. My Dad is a member of that club. He has to do just about everything at their home due to his wife’s serious back problems. I know my hubby is always willing to step up – as he had to do after my knee surgery (and even before that). Thanks for this wonderful acknowledgment of caregiving men.

  7. It is good that our culture is adjusting to dads helping more with children and household chores. This is an extension for husbands to care for wives and commendations for doing it are well overdo. However why is it expected the wives would take care of ailing husbands with only a mention of the sacrifices they make?

    • The generation before ours, I only remember women being widowed, not caring for a husband. But no husbands caring for wives either. Is it because I grew up in a farming community?

  8. I see you have a lot of comments already but may I just say I loved your perspective. I have breast cancer and am going through chemotherapy right now, so this post really meant a lot to me. Thank you.
    Terri D

  9. Since I am, well, slowly dying,
    my wife, she takes care of me,
    but turnabout came flying
    when last night she hurt her knee,
    and it was my job to be sure
    that she had that which she needs:
    an Ace bandage, some Ensure,
    and a catalogue of seeds
    so she could sit and plan and dream
    of a garden in the sun
    to plant by her rock-garden stream
    and enjoy when day is done,
    seeing green shoots bravely grope
    to the sun, and grow in hope.

  10. This was such a beautiful tribute to men. While I do not struggle with any illness, during this time of in our country, my husband does not want me to go into stores. He does all the food shopping not only for ourselves, but also for my parents. After working all day (he is an essential worker), he then goes to several supermarkets until he gets all the items on the two lists. Caretakers can surely be men or women. At the heart of caregiving is love and anyone can love and love deeply. Thank you for sharing how blessed you are and reminding us all to be grateful for caretakers. Stay safe and be healthy!

    • I was so used to women being the caretakers that I was struck with how many men I know of who are right now, with not-elderly wives with chronic challenges for years.

  11. Joy…..You have such a way of bringing words and hearts together. What a meaningful and tender writing. After Guy helped me this morning with that too-heavy branch that came down in yesterday’s wind, I emailed him to say I was thanking God for him as my neighbor and friend, and commented “what would this neighborhood do without the kindness and generosity of spirit you bring to others”.
    I have seen it before, time and time again. What an example and inspiration he is for others.
    I commend you for recognizing what you have in life, and reminding the rest of us to count our blessings too!

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