Archived Story

When the wife is injured, hubby steps up

Published 12:02pm Friday, January 31, 2014

Column: Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson

“OK, we’ll try counting baby elephants instead,” I said to my wife as she complained about how she found sheep to be disgusting. The next morning I asked her if she’d ever heard of the concept of counting sheep to help a person fall asleep. She had only vague recollections of the concept.

After I counted to 50 baby elephants in honor of her favorite animal, she was out for about five minutes that night. Her lower back has been in tremendous pain for several months, and at this point, there is nothing that is not worth trying to help her when she’s suffering and can’t sleep. Suffering sounds harsh, but it’s the only word I can use to describe it at this point.

After those five minutes of blissful sleep, I began counting baby elephants for her again.

“Where are all the grown-up elephants?” Sera said to me in her half-asleep state. “And why are all the baby elephants not with them?”

This was getting out of hand. She’s not suppose to be analyzing the situation the elephants are in; she’s suppose to be falling asleep. Eventually she did fall back asleep after I reached 80 baby elephants, and I fell asleep before she woke up again. We haven’t tried counting elephants since that night.

When you get married, it’s traditional for the couple to vow to love one another in both sickness and in health. Sera and I had very traditional vows, and that line was included. I knew it would be much more relevant sooner in our marriage than some of the other things we vowed.

While Sera’s back pain has gotten worse since our marriage in August, I don’t think either of us expected the pain to increase this rapidly while we’re both still so young. After numerous doctor visits, we haven’t yet been told what is causing the pain with any certainty from a medical professional. Thus, I’ve quickly added “caretaker” to my list of roles as a husband.

In addition to counting elephants, this means putting her ice pack on her back every morning before I leave for work, parking closer to my side of the garage so she has more room to get out of the car and always giving her my arm when we slowly walk from the store to our vehicle.

These daily occurrences allow me to easily demonstrate my love for her, something of which I’m grateful. Without them, it’s easy to think marriage could lose its spark because there would be no necessity to go out of the way to help my wife.

This Monday Sera gave me an opportunity to step up my caretaker game. We made the trek up to Albert Lea for her to get an MRI done so doctors might see how her back has changed in the last year and a half. When we arrived promptly at 7 a.m., Sera was told she should have taken the pre-MRI anti-anxiety medication an hour before the appointment, which meant it didn’t actually start fully working until halfway through the MRI. I’d now get to enjoy a delusional wife for the rest of the day. Case in point, she called my cellphone when I was in the living room to make sure I was OK.

In between the slurred I-love-yous and serving as my wife’s mobility assistant, I realized I’d never want to do this for anyone else. If I had to, I certainly would, but it’s only worthwhile if it’s for her. In a strange way, I hope all married people are able to experience this. Like many of life’s joys, it’s probably not possible without some pain.

Do I hope Sera’s back is on the path to healing soon? Certainly. While the role of caretaker is actually a natural one for me, it isn’t something sustainable for most people long term. I’d rather not test my limits. That being said, I’m appreciative of this time that draws us closer out of necessity.

Perhaps someday in the distant future Sera will get to return the favor, though she’ll have to put up with me counting sheep instead of elephants. I’m much more of a traditionalist.


Matthew Knutson is a marketing specialist at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Find him online at