In August of last year Dave and I took a trip to Rydal. In the middle of winter, with snow falling, we needed the wood fire.
Dave just so happens to be an expert at setting fires. He has mad skills. He has a sixth sense about where to find the perfect amount and substance of kindling. He is strong enough to snap bigger branches into the ideal length. He can carry his large kindling and branch pile back to the house in one go. The wood pile is scrutinised and the perfect logs are selected. Splitting the wood with an axe looks like child’s play. The fruits of his labour are arranged in the grate and the fire has started before I can even open up Safari to google Bear Grylls’ fire starting tips. While the flames take hold he replenishes the indoor wood pile so we don’t need to venture out into the sub-zero temperatures until mid-morning the next day. We then settle down with a cuppa and marshmallows to enjoy the ambience.
My primary role in this task is to keep the dogs away from the axe. I am really good at that. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I excell at saving our dogs from accidental and horrid injury. The rest of the fire creation process? Not so much. Especially the wood splitting part. I have no technique, no strength, no practice. It takes me about eight goes per log and even then I mostly have to admit defeat and let Dave finish the job off with ridiculous ease.
Last year during our holiday at Rydal Dave’s health prevented him from carrying out his fire duties without significant help. I was also unable to carry out the fire duties without help. There was nothing for it but to draw upon the lessons we’ve learnt over almost eleven years of marriage and work as a team. I functioned as Dave’s arms and legs – collecting awkward bundles of kindling, long branches and heavy logs, ferrying the spoils inside. He had no choice but to split the logs, resting in between each one, sucking in air, coughing, arms braced. The heavy logs were not easy for me. The wood splitting was challenging for him. When the fire was roaring we had a celebratory fist bump, treated ourselves to an extra toasted marshmallow and marvelled at the fact that there is no “I” in team.
Lately Dave has not been well. Day-to-day activities have been a tad challenging and necessitated a reprise of our team work.
Changing the bedsheets is an oft procrastinated task. Dave handles the fitted sheet. Sometimes he is able to change the pillow cases. The doona however is wholly my domain. Let’s face it: anyone who has ever changed a doona cover knows full well that the act is basically on par with an extended gym session. Whilst jetlagged. And hungover. Since my oxygen concentration is significantly closer to 100% than Dave’s I take one for the team and wrestle the doona and cover into defiant submission. It is fortuitous that once we have completed the epic task we have a freshly made bed to collapse into and recover our collective selves.
Fetching twelve kilogram bags of dog food is another difficulty. I go to the vet to pay for it. The vet nurse kindly places the bag on my pre-prepared trolley. A kindly and handsome stranger with a boisterous Golden Retriever puppy holds the door open and helps me negotiate the steps onto the footpath. I womanhandle the bag into the boot, drive home, and womanhandle the bag out of the boot. I deliver it to the front door. I enter the house whereupon Dave and I meet in the hall, hold the bag together, and have an argument about who is in better shape to ferry it down the hall. He has the strength. I have the lungs. Eventually we realise that we are steadily depleting both strength and lungs by continuing this stalemate. I give in and Dave delivers the bag to its final resting place in the laundry. Five minutes later Dave is somewhat recovered and I have lost my internal struggle not to say “I told you so”.
When Dave is unwell and not in peak vacuuming fitness our wooden floorboards become obscured by tumbleweeds of dog hair. In these situations one might assume that I would step up to the vacuuming plate and keep the house liveable. But no. Vacuuming comes a very distant last in my list of priorities. Some (ie: Dave) would argue that vacuuming is not even on my list of priorities. This is because vacuuming rather pales in significance to keeping myself, Dave and two dogs alive/fed/watered/toileted/narcotics-free. We bought a frightfully expensive stick vacuum which, as part of our pre-purchase vows, I promised to always fetch. And then hand over to Dave for, you know, the actual vacuuming part. We’ve found that Dave can sit on the lounge and vacuum as much of the floor as he can reach before moving vantage points and clearing another crop-circle-sized piece of floorboard. It’s the best thing to come into my life since Netflix.
Cooking dinner is also a team sport. At present Dave finds it challenging to cook a whole meal because of the amount of standing involved. I find it hard to cut onions because of the amount of crying involved. I also find it hard to remove lids from jars or drain large vats of pasta because of the entire lack of upper body strength involved. Dave drags a chair into the kitchen so I can regale him with hilarious stories about my colleagues whilst I get my Masterchef on. He pops up and down as needed for his cameo performances as the tear-resistant and strong man of the Hayward household. I ask him how his day has been and what he’s been up to. “Well,” he says “I ate, had physio, ate, went to the hospital to pick up more drugs and have a blood test, ate, had physio, rang my doctor to give him the latest update, napped, vacuumed a two-meter-squared piece of flooring, ate, napped, had a fever, hacked up my lungs and now I’m chopping onions and hearing about your hilarious colleagues.” The next day I ask him how his day was. “The same as yesterday except that I decided to mix things up a bit and vacuum a different two-meter-squared piece of flooring.”
Thank the Lord for team work.
And Dyson stick vacuums.