This story involves my husband’s hemorrhoid surgery, lots of diarrhea, Denny’s, and sex. Before I get to those highlights you’ll need some background information.
•Three nurses and our pharmacist all specifically told us to take the colon-cleansing medicine two hours before the surgery.
•Following their instructions was easily the most grievous surgery mistake we have ever made. (We’ve done more than twenty surgeries so that’s a significant statement.)
•My husband, aka “The Man”, had to shower because the pre-op instructions said to “shampoo.” (They didn’t say what to shampoo but we figured he should shampoo both ends to be on the safe side.)
•Our water heater found a farm, and bought it the night before the surgery, so we showered at my sister’s house.
•Our washing machine was broken.
•Unfortunately, the hospital messed up on The Man’s medications and he wasn’t able to take any pain meds for the first 24 hours after what is known as a very painful surgery.
•It was my 30th birthday.
This is the story I will tell my grandkids so they will understand the meaning of devotion.
After the surgery, Dr. T came up to me and told me she had to remove more tissue than she expected to. She continued by telling me she had “packed” The Man full of lidocaine-soaked gauze, and given him many more numbing shots than usual to try and help with the lack of pain meds for the first day. The Man had fasted for two days before his surgery so he was really hungry when he got out. The first thing he said to the nurse was, “I want a Dr. Pepper and my wife!” I was very happy I made it into the top two things he desired. It’s usually one of the nurses he requests with his Dr. Pepper.
When I asked him what he would like for his first solid food in three days he enthusiastically said, “Chicken soup! I’d love to have some chicken soup! Or pancakes!” That’s how we ended up at Denny’s.
The waitress sandwiched us between a booth with a mom and four kids on one side, and two guys who looked like they might be on a date on the other. That was everyone in the restaurant. It wasn’t a busy day. The Man ordered his pancakes, and when he heard that the soup of the day was chicken noodle, his face lit up like I had put a mechanic’s pit in the garage. I ordered a milkshake and planned to eat the sausage on his grand slam.
While waiting for our orders The Man got a scared, stunned look on his face. He gingerly stood up and started walking towards the restroom, very stiff leggedly because he loses his leg function if he lies down for too long and he had been lying down in surgery all day. I asked him if he needed any help and he shooed me off with his hand, too concentrated on the task of walking to answer verbally. He returned a few minutes later with a very relieved face. I asked him if everything was ok and he said he just had to pee, but that he didn’t know it because he couldn’t feel any of those muscles. We talked about how weird that was that he didn’t know if he had to go or not, and he said he didn’t think he’d have any control to stop it if he did have to go. The waitress brought our food and all conversation stopped while The Man ate like a bulimic on a binge.
I grabbed one of his sausages and dipped it in his syrup. As I did this The Man got a horrified look on his face, his breath quickened and he got up, walking as fast as he could wobble to the restroom. He didn’t even bother to look back at me, he just snapped his fingers and sharply said “WOMAN!” He had worn sweats for the surgery, they were comfy and wouldn’t be hard to get on and off. They were white. As he walked towards the bathroom I watched the legs progressively turning brown. I knew there was going to be a mess, it was going to ruin my appetite, and I hadn’t had any food that day. I finished my sausage.
I braced myself as I walked into the men’s bathroom. I have had various jobs that required me to clean them and I knew what I was in for. I clearly remembered the pungent smell of old, stale urine, the vulgar curly hairs on the urinals, and the abject yellow stains on the floor that no amount of scrubbing could get out. The air never circulated enough to relieve the noxious odor of sweaty crotches and gas. I walked in and saw The Man in the lone stall surrounded by more poop than I thought was possible to come out of one person. Excrement covered the toilet, inside and out, it oozed down the walls, all over the floor, and on the handle of the toilet. It dripped off of the handicap grab bar. It was like someone had taken a fire hose and sprayed the interior of the stall with bloody excrement. I tried not to imagine the tiny bits of poop my nose was filtering for me. Good heavens I hope it’s being filtered out! I thought, trying not to feel it collecting in my lungs. No amount of coughing will ever get these particles out!
The Man looked so humiliated, and apologetic. “I’m so sorry, I know you were just about to eat and now you won’t be able to,” his voice was pleading, as if I would be upset about this. “I didn’t know, I can’t feel anything. I’m so sorry, but I’m afraid to wipe, I don’t want to do any damage.”
I crouched down next to him, trying not to lose my footing on the slippery feces. “That’s cool, babe, it’s not a big deal. You did this just ’cause I told you not to expect me to play nurse and wipe you after surgery,” I looked up at him and winked, “I know how you are.”
I wiped him and helped him get to a standing position. He was very unsteady with his now-brown sweats down around his ankles, and his sore, stiff back. Fear misted his face. Fear that he would harm himself and not be able to feel it. I leaned him against the wall and turned to the toilet.
He had stuck his massive surgical pad in the bowl. “Dude, why’d you do that? Those don’t flush. The toilet will overflow.”
“I see those in the toilet all the time. You flush ’em,” he argued.
“No, what you see in the toilet aren’t pads, they don’t flush…ever. They even say on the box not to flush them. This one is larger than The Kid was when she was born! There’s no way it could flush.” I did what had to be done. I reached into the toilet and fished it out. It dripped on the floor all the way to the empty trashcan. A reminder that the trash cans were always empty because men never seem to wash their hands, or at least dry them on paper towels.
I washed my hands and went back to The Man. He was still making an x against the wall, like someone about to be frisked. I looked at him standing like that, saw the brown bloody color of his legs, and went to the sink for paper towels to wipe him up with. He talked as I was trying my best to untangle the bloody goo out of his leg hair.
“So, I guess it was kind of silly to worry about clogging that toilet eh? What’s the worst a pad could do? I’ve never overflowed a toilet clear up the walls before and I’ve had some doozies!” The Man actually had a tinge of pride in his voice as he said this.
“You’re very manly with your extreme poopage,” I replied dryly. “About that, what do you think I should do? I can’t leave this for someone else to clean up, that’s just not right, but they need to know they should wear Hazmat suits when they come in to clean. I’m about done with this leg. Can you scoot just a little so I can get the other one?” I finished cleaning off both of his legs, carefully took them out of his sweats, and put his feet back into his shoes so he didn’t have to step on the dirty floor.
“Are my socks clean? I don’t want to wear poopy socks.”
I looked at him like he was insane and gestured around the room, “They’re gonna need a pressure washer to clean this stall and you want to know if your socks are clean?! Probably not. Sorry babe, but the smell test is pretty moot at this point. They’re clean enough. What do you want to do about these sweats?” They were completely saturated with brown and red secretions. “Our washer is broken and I’m NOT taking these to a public laundromat! I don’t want to ask my sister to wash them for us, can I just . . .”
“I don’t care what you do with them,” The Man said in a clipped, tired tone. “Leave them on the floor or throw them away, there’s no way to bring them home with us anyway. I can just tie my shirt around my waist till we get out to the car, but I’m going to need a pad.”
“Sweet, thanks! I really wanted to toss them but they’re yours and I didn’t want to do that if you still wanted them.” I put them in the trashcan, which by now was full. I had used all of the paper towels to wipe up The Man, walls, toilet, safety bar, floors, and the stall door. I wondered what the person who emptied the trash would think when they saw it piled high with poopy clothes, a diarrhea and blood soaked hospital pad, putrefied dressings, and soiled paper towels.
I couldn’t think about that for very long, The Man needed some pants and a pad. Think think think, I told myself. I could go buy him some sweats or he could wrap his shirt around him just long enough to get to the car…wait…THE CAR! ‘Luckily’ our water heater had broken. “Hey, remember that we showered at M’s? I’ll go get the clothes you wore to her house! I put them in the trunk. HAH! I am a genius!” I pronounced triumphantly.
The Man, enthusiastically, “Good idea! I’ll stay here!”
I laughed. Where else was he gonna go without pants or underwear?
Wrongly assuming the worst was over; I left him and stepped out of the bathroom.
We had been in the men’s room for about 45 minutes now. I thought about this as I went out to the car. I knew it looked weird to the people in the restaurant because it wasn’t crowded enough for them not to notice, but I was not about to stop and talk about what was going on in there. As I came back from the car with clothes in hand, I heard a phone ringing. I noticed the waitress, the possibly gay guys, and the woman with kids looking at our table. That was odd, but I was on a mission and didn’t have time to think about it. I went into the men’s room and asked The Man to hold the clothes. Now to somehow procure a pad. I snapped my fingers. “You know what? Girls rooms have those special “candy machines” in them, I’ll just get one from there! I even have cash in my pocket!” I was a problem solver!
“Good idea! I’ll stay here!”
As I crossed over to the women’s room I saw the waitress and patrons were still gathered around our table. The woman with kids looked very upset, her youngest son, I guessed he was six, was leaning way over the booth. His mother was trying to grab something out of his hand. As I walked into the women’s bathroom my mind registered the thing in the boy’s hand. It was The Man’s iPhone. Great, someone is probably calling to see how things are going and that means that the phone that I heard ringing a few minutes ago is STILL ringing. Which means that whoever’s calling is very insistent and is going to keep calling until they get an answer and not voicemail. I searched the bathroom but to my utter despair there was not a pad dispenser. I exited the bathroom and saw that there was another waitress at our table. Weird. It’s just a phone people! I know it’s annoying, but leave it alone and I’ll get to it as soon as I can! Everyone was staring down at the phone and the woman with kids continued looking very upset. The waitress had the phone now and she looked up at me as I was going back into the men’s room. I ignored her, went to The Man and told him I would have to MacGyver a pad for him because they didn’t have any.
As I was making a pad I said to The Man, “Someone’s calling you over and over and it’s annoying everyone in the restaurant. I personally hate it when people let their phone ring and interrupt my meal. What do you want me to do?”
“Leave it, I can’t think of anyone I’d want to talk to right now and we’re a little busy.” His voice was showing strain.
I fashioned a pad and was helping The Man get into his clothes when we heard The Man’s phone ringing and a knock on the bathroom door. The Man and I looked up at each other with extremely caught faces. “Uh…occupied!” The Man said in a very shaky voice as I threaded his foot through a pant leg.
The waitress replied hesitantly, “I think… your phone… is… ringing?”
“Yeah, sorry about that. We’ll be out in a second.” The Man yelled back, his words reverberating hollowly off the tile walls.
The ringing got louder and I pictured her holding it up while she cracked the door. Then she must have left because the sound faded.
The Man swore several times, my pulse quickened and I looked up from putting his shoe on. “What? Did I hurt you? Are you ok?”
“No, I’m fine. It’s just…that’s not my phone ‘ringing.'” The air quotes around “ringing” hung like anvils. Heavy, thick, and black.
I froze, knowing The Man and not wanting him to confirm what I was afraid it had to be. “What is it?” My voice betraying the dread I was feeling.
“Well, sweetie.” The Man hesitated. He knew this was not something I wanted to hear. When he continued, he spoke haltingly, with a lilt that was there to make his words sound young and innocent, “it’s the uh…alarm I have… to remind me… to come home on time.” He sped up like a driver in the last straightaway in a Nascar race, trying to get the explanation over with. “I made it so I would remember that I have you waiting at home for me and I love you and I know you want me to come home at a reasonable hour?”
I wilted as much as a person could without touching the formerly poop strewn floor. I was familiar with these alarms. He is notoriously forgetful and he has his phone rigged to flash, ring, vibrate, and display text on the screen to remind him of various things. The phone only stops when you put in a password. That makes it harder for him to ignore it and turn it off absentmindedly. I didn’t think I really wanted to know, but I asked flatly, “What does it say on the screen.”
“Well”, the innocent hesitation was back, “it kind of says…” I glared at him. He stopped the charade and looked at me, eyes twinkling through his sheepish expression, “It’s 5:00 on Friday, date night. Go home and try to get laid.”
I was incredulous. “You’re telling me that everyone in the restaurant has seen that?! We’ve been in here for almost an hour and they’ve been passing that phone around for,” I looked at my watch, “thirty minutes?!? And when was the last time you took me out on a date, let alone on a Friday? This does NOT count!”
I tried to collect myself. “What’s the password?”
“Boobies?” He actually looked proud of himself!
I went to hold my head in my hands, but decided against it. I had washed them several times but they just weren’t going to be clean enough to touch my face until I showered…with lye. “Dude! I am not walking out there and having everyone look at me like we just got ‘down with our bad selves’ in a DENNY’S bathroom!”
“But I still haven’t eaten,” he protested. “I’m going to finish my pancakes. We’re not leaving until I get pancakes!”
The thought of eating grossed me out in a wide-ranging way. “This is crazy, we’ve both been covered with what should be in your intestines and you want to eat?!?”
“I’ve been on a liquid diet and haven’t eaten in three days! My bowels are empty, there’s absolutely no food in my belly and I’m HUNGRY!” The Man declared.
I knew he was right. I had personally cleaned up at least five gallons of his torrential goo. “Fine, but next time you’re listening to ME, and not some stupid pre-op nurses who say NOT to take the meds the night before. And I’m not going to sit with you. I’m going to wait in the car.”
“I’ll eat fast!”
It would be far too mild to say that I was not looking forward to walking back to the table. “This is devotion, you know that right? DE-VO-TION! Don’t you ever say you question my love for you or call me a wuss. Ever. Again. I want a GOOD Christmas present this year, none of that bought-the-night-before crap.”
We passed the overflowing trashcan that now resembled a statue of feces, an offering to the God of hemorrhoids. We left the bathroom. I felt like I was on death row, heading towards the chamber my reputation would die in. I am an easy blusher and I felt my face baking as everyone in the restaurant gave us ‘knowing’ looks. The Man was limping and I was supporting him on one side. The two guys were giving The Man a thumbs up with their eyes, looking very happy that we had just gotten so crazy in there The Man couldn’t even walk straight. It was obvious they were taking note that he went in the bathroom wearing white sweats, but he exited wearing black Levis. The waitress shyly came up to us and handed over the phone. “We figured out how to turn it off,” she whispered, making sure to avoid all eye contact. The guys behind us snickered as they got up to leave. It was as if they had waited to watch us come out of the bathroom. I guessed they were the ones to figure out the password. The Man asked for a check and I gave him money to pay with.
The waitress received an 80% tip.
At home, displayed proudly on the fridge like a Purple Heart, is the perfect gift I gave The Man that year for Christmas.