When I was five I accidentally stapled my finger. If my mom had been at home at the time, she would have pulled the staple out, slapped on a Mickey Mouse band-aid and called it a day.
But my mom wasn’t at home. My father was.
When the initial shock wore off, I began screaming like a child whose arm is going through the wood chipper. My father came running in, took one look at the tiny silver piece of metal sticking out of his precious daughter’s finger and he careened straight into panic mode.
He ran up and down the hallways looking for an adult. He tried to call my mom at her office. And when all that failed, he grabbed me by the arm, dragged me to the kitchen sink and stuck my chubby little girl hand under the faucet. He didn’t look at the temperature.
As the first drops of scalding hot water hit my injured hand, our foundation cracked and dust trickled down from the ceiling.
I was five, but I figured out that day that my father was no good in a crisis.
Growing up, my mother always said, “Don’t marry someone like your father.” But when you are a girl and your father is a good man, he inevitably becomes the yardstick for all other men. You wake up one day married to someone who is just like your father.
My father has a box of random cords in the closet. My husband has a box of random cords in the closet. My father has selective hearing loss. My husband has selective hearing loss. My poor father spent his formative adult years living in a house full of females. My poor husband is still trying to figure out why our seven year old takes fifteen minutes to style her hair in the morning. The teen years are going to be as rough on him as they were on my dad.
Every single time I text my mother to complain about my husband, she texts me back and says, “I told you not to marry someone like your dad.”
Despite the world of evidence that screamed, “Hey moron, you married someone JUST LIKE YOUR FATHER,” I continue to delude myself by thinking that I didn’t marry someone just like my father. My husband isn’t like my father, because in a crisis, HE WOULD COME THROUGH.
In four years of dating and ten years of marriage, we had never faced an actual crisis. We’d faced tragedy. We’d celebrated incredible highs. But until this past weekend, I had never had the chance to see how my husband would function when faced with a challenge that required split second decision-making.
The kids were away at my in-laws. We were enjoying a well deserved date weekend, hiking around a local reserve and arguing over who should call the repairman to come fix the dishwasher. When my phone started to buzz, I assumed it was a wrong number. Who calls people nowadays?
It was my mother-in-law. Were we at home??? Her voice went up at the end of the question and faded off into a panicked breath. “Your father went out to take some photos and fell down and now he can’t move his arm whatshouldido???”
And my husband, bless his heart, says…. AND I QUOTE….”Dunno, maybe give him a tylenol and see if it goes away by tomorrow?”
I now know that if I ever keel over, and lie breathless on the kitchen floor, that cold hard tile will be the last thing I feel before St Peter calls my name at the golden gates. My husband will be standing there, offering me an ace bandage and a ice pack while my heart beats its last rhythms.
My father chose to leap straight to panic. My husband offers placeboes and a blind eye.
I can imagine the look on my mother-in-law’s face, as her eyes darted between her injured husband and my two children. Minimising a broken arm down to a bruise would certainly make her life easier. But in that crisis moment, she needed someone to step in with a plan of action. She needed step-by-step instructions. Go there. Do that. The kids can go to the ER with you. We’ll be there tomorrow.
Turns out, my 78 year-old father in law had a broken humerus.
After several hours of text messages, x-ray results, moved meetings and arranging travel to go down to their house, my husband and I finally sat down to dinner.
“Looking back now, do you think that maybe suggesting a dose of tylenol wasn’t the best approach?”
“Meh….still seems like a good place to start.”
My husband is crap in a crisis.