My wife has a history of nosebleeds, and this week she got hit by a few gushers, including one that landed her in a hospital emergency room. Sheri’s such an old pro at nosebleeds she knows what can set them off. She told me: no bending over, no exertion, no blowing her nose.
A few days later, Sheri gave in to gardening’s temptations. She transplanted, shoveled, sneezed a time or two. Predictably, the nose bled. This one was minor, more a leak than a geyser, and after she’d pinched her nose closed for ten minutes, she found a chair in the yard and let me finish what she’d started. I planted flax, transplanted a petunia and some basil, spread mulch as needed. She pointed and watched and tried not to get frustrated. A doctor’s daughter, my wife has always been a lousy patient. Lately she’s suffered through a shoulder strain that doesn’t want to heal, a foot cramp so bad it bruised her arch, and the nosebleeds. She told me, “I feel like my body’s breaking down.”
Decades ago, a girlfriend told me that you can see how a woman will age by looking at her mother. Sheri’s mother was long-lived and robust well into her 80s, traits shared, it seems, by most women in her family. On the other hand, many of the men in my family have broken down young. Using the past to predict the future isn’t smart, but back then I figured that if you considered our age difference and our genetics, Sheri and I might fall apart at about the same time.
Now, as the younger husband carried a shovel around the yard and the older wife watched, she said something along the lines of: “This is what it’ll be like.”
She was kind of joking.