“Work”: a narrative


As I was getting out of bed this morning, I thought of an elderly heterosexual couple I know. He was diagnosed with cancer awhile back, and it’s sad to say but at that time I think I saw relief in her eyes. It took me by surprise, and I tried to understand… here they are a loving couple in their 80s and she is not completely devastated that her partner may be terminally ill? Maybe her relief was simply knowing now what was causing his exhaustion and other symptoms, but maybe it was something else.

Over the next few months I saw the toll his illness took…on her. She never looked so worn out as those times I would see her in the early stages of treatment. Perhaps her weariness came from accepting his illness and grieving his eventual loss, but I have come to believe something more. I believe that while his illness meant just that for him, it meant a whole lot of extra “work” for her. He has been retired for nearly two decades, but she is still the one cooking meals, doing laundry and cleaning house. If he “helps”, or did in the past, his illness is certainly restricting that contribution. Before he was ill he played a lot of golf, took long walks and spent some time visiting with friends. Now he hardly does any of those things. Now his illness is not potentially terminal, but chronic and manageable. Now she never gets a break.

I think I’ve come to understand a little bit of the relief I saw in her eyes, relief which has long since faded and is replaced by just plain tired. I think she was looking forward to a time when she could go out to eat if she wanted to, but can’t because he doesn’t like or trust meals that are not “home-cooked”. She was looking forward to a time when she could get out of bed and not “have to” make it if she so felt. She was looking forward to a time when she could do whatever she wanted to do, because there was none other dependent on her labor. I wonder if she’s happy, being able to keep working at serving him. I guess it doesn’t matter much, because after all… it’s #HFSF.

Fem Phil Corvallis


3 Responses to ““Work”: a narrative”

  1. corridor7f Says:

    That sounds like a trying and stressful time. Anyone would be relieved and the guilt that comes along with that is hard to deal with.. but she’s only human.

    I think people feel like women often have to be super-human and deal with things without a single complaint.

    I’m wondering if there are couples where the husband would devot this much care to a seriously ill wife?

  2. snooj Says:

    This is definitely a situation I hope I’m never in, but I agree that perhaps she saw relief in the idea of his disease being terminal.

    My family use to hire a farmer who was very close with us. His wife eventually got Alzheimer. He couldn’t leave her at home where she may turn on a stove or something, and had to take her to work everyday. She would just sit in the trunk for the entire shift. He’d take care of her all day every day. She passed away a couple years ago, and he’s much different now. He seems happy. I’m 100% sure he loved her, still does, and misses her greatly, but now he can sit down and relax. I’d reckon it’s tough to feel that way, but it’s definitely understandable.

    Though I do have to ask, why is your neighbor’s situation sexist? In wedding vows, we promise the other to care for in sickness and health. If I (a woman) need to toss away my career, and start doing nothing but cook, clean house, and take care of my partner all day, then I will do so. I’ll probably hate it (I hire maids for a reason. I hate traditional women jobs. When they’re not around my place is a bloody mess and I’m beyond lazy), but out of my love for him, I will do it. I expect the same from him should I ever need it.

  3. gloinson Says:

    Awful post. _I_ wonder if you’d ever dare to ask her for her real feelings instead of just guessing about the state of their partnership, the real grade of his illness, the grade of his doing the chores.

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