Couples Therapy

Dear Family & friends,

Five months is too long! Five months is not long enough….that is the reality.  Although it’s been five months since I have written to you, so much has happened that I can’t quite condense it all. I am sure the same is true for you. Life gives us moments we treasure, and then they slide through our fingers like slippery fish, sinking into the black depths of our murky minds.

Oh joy! During these five months, my husband and I have had the double pleasure of getting acquainted with our two little granddaughters who came into this world within 3 weeks of each other,  wriggling their way into our hearts.

Oh boy! During these five months,  my husband and I have had the overwhelming  pain and relief of adopting two additional family members — my new titanium shoulder, and his new titanium knee.

And, if you have not yet adopted any new bionic body parts, it is very much akin to childbirth. First of all, you are totally helpless. Like a newborn, you have to be dressed, and fed, and bathed, and you cry a lot. The downside is that you just don’t look as cute as a newborn, so, if anyone is kind to you, you owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Being a scrunched up, ugly-old “newborn” myself, I am eternally indebted to my husband for soldiering through my shoulder surgery, oohing and cooing to me throughout the whole ordeal. He was there at the hospital ’til midnight tucking me in, and when I awoke at 6:30 am, he was the handsomest vision I had ever seen — sitting patiently across from me in a chair, staring at me the way he did when we were dating (or at least that’s what I saw through the fog of oxycodone!). On second glance, he was holding a cup of my favorite coffee and a breakfast treat from the Seattle’s Best stand in the lobby — staving off possible starvation at the sight of my hospital tray

Once home, every night, without complaining, he filled my ice bucket, carried it up the long flight of stairs to our room, and Velcroed me in to the most pitifully designed shoulder ice harness you’ve ever seen —all this without one cuss word (which this “super-human” husband of mine has never uttered in our 44 years of marriage –believe it!) I was the one doing all the cursing for him. “Who designs these stupid things? This wrap would better fit on the hind legs of a donkey than on a human body. Shoulder wrap my ^%$!” As he finished trying his best to strap it around me, what little hair I have repeatedly caught and pulled from their weak follicles. I had to grab his shoulder with my good arm more than once, as I teetered from my painkillers, inflicting more pain on him while stomping on his toes. Still, he sweetly kissed and tucked me in, turning the ice machine on to do its chilling magic.

A few minutes later, just after he settled into bed, I whispered, “Ted?”


“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Oh, Nancy, why didn’t you tell me that BEFORE I hooked you up?”

“Sorry honey, I didn’t have to go then.”  Silence. He could be pretending not to hear me. But no, I heard a rustling of covers, as he dutifully pulled himself out of bed, and came around to my side where I was bound like his little papoose.  He gently undid my velcro, turned off the ice machine, and escorted me to the bathroom.

This was in December. Now, after his knee replacement last Friday, February 15th, I have been forced to be as sweet (not my nature) as he was.

Last night I had just put his ice wrap on, and 3 minutes later he started to wrestle with it.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Why didn’t you tell me BEFORE I HOOKED YOU UP?” I started….wanting to cry, or cuss…and then I remembered his infinite patience with me, and realized how lucky I was to have such a “patient” patient!

When I was at my wit’s end after his first 24 hours home, having to do every little thing for him every second, tripping over the cords to his leg pumps and ice machine –so badly that I almost fell on my new and formerly improved shoulder,  I was so angry and exhausted I wanted to scream! But, he broke my fall by catching me in his still-strong arms, and I caught my tongue when a supportive text came through from my loving cousin, Mary.

“This is couples therapy.”

I won’t tell you how I wanted to answer her.

But, yesterday, on his fifth day home from the hospital, I had to go out for my shoulder therapy and to get my hair done (head therapy) for the first time in a week. And, though I had left him at home in hands more capable than mine, (just as I was always cautious to leave my children with babysitters more capable than I), I still called home constantly to check on him:

“Has he had his 2 pm pain pills? Does he have his leg elevated? When was the last time he iced it?”   When I came home to find his therapist working with him, saying he was doing so well he “might even be able to go back to work next week…” I protested “No Way! He is NOT ready to get off that walker! I can’t catch him. I have a new shoulder!!”

In truth, he isn’t ready to leave his walker, and I believe the therapist was just trying to placate this independent husband of mine who thinks the office can NOT run without him. But I wanted him home with me. I felt like I did the day they told me my first child, and last, and the three in between, were ready to start pre-school.  “No they’re not, NO WAY. They will holler and scream! They are just not ready to separate from me. ” But, on that first day, after a momentary hesitation, they took off running head-on to this next exciting stage of their lives.  But, when I dropped them off, I could not see the way through my tears.

Yesterday, I felt the same angst. I cannot bear the thought of being separated from him!!

I have a meeting tomorrow, and will have to leave Ted again for a few hours. I am not looking forward to it. I always said, “For better or worse, but never for lunch,” but this husband of mine is so undemanding, he doesn’t even eat lunch.

“Are you hungry honey? I will be happy to fix you something…some Campbells soup, or some cheese and crackers…?”

This I asked him at 3 pm when I realized I had not offered food for five hours –but had been sneaking around snacking on shortbread cookies and coffee since 9 am.

“No, don’t go to any trouble, I’ll just eat out of the refrigerator.”

My refrigerator abounds with a variety of healthy foods. No, nothing I shopped for — more of an Act of Mercy from my dear friend, Mary. (Yes, I DO have a lot of Mary’s in my life. And they are all essential in my heart.)

Knowing me intimately,  Mary is aware of my empty-nest aversion to cooking. Just when I thought I would have to make an emergency run to the grocery store, my doorbell rang and there was Goldilocks, with a basket brimming over with fancy treats. (For detailed notes on my cooking skills, see post from last year –my gourmet “Cottage cheese and peaches.”) Thank goodness healthy food was not in vogue when I was raising my kids, or they would have starved to death.

Ted, who married me in “those good-old days,” is known by his kids as “The Dad who ate Wheat Thins and squirt-cheese” every time Mom was out of town.  He has more recently boosted his tastes a healthier notch to “Kraft Deli-Thin-Sliced Swiss Cheese” to enjoy with his Wheat Thins. He is so easy to please. I make my homemade spaghetti every other month, and then freeze some of it for the alternate month. Just one serving of my homemade spaghetti a month and he thinks Martha Stewart learned everything she knows from me!

Actually, I copied my ever-popular banana bread recipe from Martha. I use the word “popular” loosely. If you don’t normally cook anything, anything you do cook becomes popular by default. I only make it because my Catholic gene won’t allow me to waste anything. You see, Ted is a man of habit, and one of his good habits is eating one banana every morning for breakfast. Bananas ripen so fast that, at our ages,  it is not a good idea to buy green bananas. Thus, my freezer is full of brown bananas. And, when I am feeling really Betty Crocker-like, you know, apron-on and all, I will whip up a double batch of tiny banana breads and stuff the freezer with them. So, we have our weekend treats of splitting a loaf together over our morning coffee—what I would call “Eeyearps,” my made-up childhood word for “extremely satisfying and cozy” because the English language has no other word for it.  My family and two friends, Linda and Peggy, are the only ones who appreciate the nuance of this word, but one day, I promise you, Eeyearps will be in the dictionary.

Anyway— voila! My banana bread by Martha before him, and my hubby thinks he is King of the Castle.  But as appreciative as he is, he would rather take me out to dinner any night than to have to feel beholden to me by helping clean up the dishes.

He knows how to fly an airplane, but has no idea how a dishwasher works. And it’s taken me over 40 years to realize I don’t want him to know how it works.  I used to complain about not having a husband who “enjoyed cooking with me” like so many of my friends do.  Then I realized how lucky I am. He thinks I am gifted in the kitchen because I know where the water is. Seriously, he did ask me once, “Honey, do we have any water?” No, he’s NOT stupid, he knows we have running water. He had it growing up in this house.  That was just his most polite, least demanding way of asking, “Honey, could you please get me a glass of water?”  When I serve him his glass of water, his customary praise for my culinary skills makes my heart melt.

And now, his many-times-a day praise, and comments to family & friends that “Nancy would have made a great nurse!” keeps my frustration at bay. That’s another dirty little secret….I am constantly cussing under my breath…I just make sure he doesn’t hear me. And, I pity the patient that would have me as a nurse in the hospital. I would talk their ear off about my 8 wonderful, beautiful, gifted  grandchildren to the point that they would either die– from not getting their meds on time–or go deaf from hearing my endless drivel. I guess I would save the insurance companies money as my patients, one way or another, would be checking out really fast.

So for better or worse, we accept each other’s idiosyncrasies. For better or worse we wait on each other hand and foot after surgery. And I try to be as sweet and patient as is my dear “Ted-ward” (that moniker was given him during the first year of our marriage by Barbie Benton –Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriend –but that story for another time).

Yes, he’s my ” Ted-ward,” or Teddy as so many of his old friends call him. And one of the surprises after his surgery was having Burt, his old childhood friend, and groomsman in our wedding, check in on him at the hospital. They re-united recently over the same operation by the same surgeon. To hear them talking together, you would have thought they were two teenage boys slapping each other with their towels in the locker room of Ladue High School, before the big football game–where their athletic prowess left them both with knee injuries that several decades later require “new” knees.

And now, Teddy is even realizing  that perhaps this “better or worse” might be going a bit too far. Just today, as we were chatting for 54 minutes on Alexa to son Kevin in Thailand about his weekend trip to Puket for a Muay Thai tournament, and our upcoming Spring trip to visit him in Bangkok, Ted said to Kevin: “Mom and I have made a promise to each other “No more surgeries for a long, long time!”

PS: Watch for my upcoming new website, and WOMANOVERBOARD Podcast. I have already started interviewing some wonderful, really fun and super “Overboard” women. If you are that woman, or know one who is, please send me contact email and or phone number to my comments on this website, or to my email at

And, I would love to know how you, dear friends, are doing, and what in your life is overboard.  Thank you!