MY HUSBAND HAS A COLD & A GROWN MAN WITH A COLD IS A BABY
He’s a grown man, a brilliant man, but when my husband has a cold, all of a sudden, he’s a baby. And today my husband has a cold. It’s not just any cold. It’s a COLD! A cold so fierce that it knocks him back in time. So, I’m married to a three-year-old with a cold.
This man-becomes-boy thing seems to be ancient and universal. My husband’s Grandma Rubin had a favorite expression that she’d learned as a child: Es di Zelbe a zibn a zibn aun zibetsik — a man is the same at seventy-seven as he was at seven. This was a woman who had nursed a man with a cold!
THIS MORNING’S NEWS — MY HUSBAND HAS A COLD
I’m downstairs in the kitchen making coffee. He’s in the bathroom. But thanks to the magic of Alexa, he can talk to me wherever I am in the house.
Alexa chimes and I hear throat clearing, then, “Ruthi. Hello. Hello. Can you hear me?” And a scream, “Ruthi!”
“I hear you. Stop yelling. I hear you. Ron, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“No. My head hurts. Do we have any aspirin?”
“Yes. In your medicine cabinet.”
“Are you sure? I don’t see it. I think we ran out.”
“We did. I bought a new bottle last week.
“Where did you put it?”
“In your medicine cabinet.”
“It’s not there.”
“It’s there. It’s still in the box. Look for the yellow box.”
“Oh. I was looking for a bottle. Where’s the thermometer?”
“In the same cabinet.”
“I can’t find it.”
“I’m coming up.”
I go to the bathroom cabinet and take the thermometer from the shelf below the aspirin. “Are you getting sick?”
He holds the thermometer to his head.
“I am sick. Look — it’s ninety-nine point five. I think I have the flu.”
(Remember, before COVID, when the flu was just the flu?)
“Then you should go back to bed.”
“I don’t want to go to bed,” he whines.
DOWNSTAIRS — RED-EYED, UNSHAVEN, AND PITIFUL
My husband, leaning, almost laying, on the counter, rasps, “Do we have any coffee?”
I hand him a mug of coffee and the milk.
“Do you want some cereal?”
“No. My throat hurts. Look at it.” He points his open mouth at me. “Is it red?”
I look. “A little red — not too bad.”
“Are there white spots. Look for white spots. They mean strep.”
“You don’t have strep.”
“I could. You don’t know.”
“Would you like eggs?”
“No… I don’t like eggs.”
“Since when? Oatmeal then?”
“Okay. I’ll try that. Do we have brown sugar?”
AFTER BREAKFAST — MY HUSBAND AND HIS COLD ARE ON THE COUCH IN THE DEN
“I’m freezing. Can you turn up the heat?”
I look at the thermostat. “It’s at 80 now.”
The thermostat must be wrong. Can you turn it up anyway?”
“I’m turning it up. I still think you should be in bed?”
“No. I want to watch the game down here.”
“Fine. I’ll make you some tea.”
“I don’t want tea.”
“I’m going upstairs to work on my blog. Do you need anything else before I go?”
“No. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”
I’m halfway up the stairs when I hear, “Where’s the clicker?”
“I don’t know. Look by the television.”
“I don’t see it.”
“I found it.”
“No. You just go do your work.”
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
I’m at the computer, struggling with a paragraph in a story I’m working on. I think I have the right words when Alexa chimes again, and the words evaporate.
(Why did I put an Alexa in every room?)
“Ruthi. Can you hear me? Ruthi!”
“I hear you,” I try not to bark.
“Do you know where my sweater is?”
“Isn’t it in the hall closet?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you look before I come down?”
The seven-year-old thing is wearing thin.
“I found it. Do we have any Kleenex?”
“They’re in the closet too — on the shelf.”
“Are you coming back down here?”
“I can if you need me.”
I give up on the blog and go downstairs. He really does look pitiful. “Do you need anything else?” I ask.
“No. Just you. I need you sitting beside me.”
Okay, that’s sweet. I hug him and sit beside him.
“It’s too hot in here. It’s stuffy. I can’t breathe.”
I get up and turn the heat down. I sit back down.
“Do we have anything I can eat for lunch?”
“There’s leftover baked chicken. I can make you a sandwich.”
“Can you make chicken broth instead? And add pasta? I think I can eat a little tortellini en brodo.”
I get up. “Okay. I think we have tortellini in the freezer. I’ll start the broth.”
I’m in the kitchen cutting up the chicken, and he calls.
“Ruthi, what are you doing?
“I’m making your soup.”
“Can you come in here a minute? I need a favor.”
“Not right now. I’m cutting up the chicken. What do you need?”
“I need you to wash my glasses.”
“Okay. After I finish this.”
“Can you do it now? I can’t see out of them.”
“No. My hands are greasy and the water is about to boil.”
“But I can’t see a thing.”
“Then close your eyes and remember what things used to look like when you could see!”
I wash my hands and go to the den. I give my big baby a hug. We laugh.
My husband has a cold. He’s a baby. He drives me crazy. But he’s the only man I want to be with, to hold hands with, to laugh with, to make soup for, to kiss. I thank God every day that I wake up and he’s there beside me — even when he’s a baby with a cold.