My husband usually stands tall. But like a mighty oak felled by the axeman’s blade, he was brought low by a cold. Just as you would stand in the forest, watching in awe as a majestic tree slowly sways, then leans, then crashes to the ground with a bone-rattling thump, I watched my husband succumb to the aches and pains, the sniffles and snorts, the feverish shivering of a winter cold. My strong husband lay supine on the couch, weakly calling for tea – mint tea with honey and lemon. Surrounded by the crumpled, soggy remains of several rolls of tissue, wrapped in blankets and scarves with only the tip of his noble Egyptian nose visible – the nose spouting mucus like the headwaters of a nasal Nile River flowing over the fertile growth of his mustache and into the broad delta of his beard – he held his finger up and made the Shahadah, the declaration of faith: “Ash-hadu an la ilaha il Allah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadur Rasool Allah”. In his mind death was imminent. In my mind, it would only be imminent if I clonked him on the head with a frying pan for being such a baby. I’d been dealing with four sick children for several days already, and watching him coming down with a cold was like being trapped in a slowly developing nightmare. Four sick kids, one sick big baby.
My husband usually eschews modern medicine, preferring to dose himself with a variety of homeopathic remedies, but since I was in charge and he was too weak to leave the couch, I made him take some ibuprofin and drink a cup of orange juice. After half an hour of coughing punctuated by bursts of nose-blowing and expressions such as “ya Allah” and “ya abooya”, he mananged to unwrap himself from the blankets and arise from his sickbed – er, couch. Summoning all his strength, he gave one last longing look at the TV, which was playing an all-day “Monk” marathon, dressed in his warmest clothes, and shuffled out the door to go to work.
There are many definitions of a hero. When we hear the word, we think of firefighters, policemen, doctors, or teachers. Sometimes heroism is a lot quieter and more quaint. Sometimes heroism is resisting the overwhelming urge to stay on the couch, forcing yourself to get up and get out the door so you can provide for your family. I watched a heroic act this morning, and seeing him struggle to do his job makes it easier for me to deal with the boogery noses, barfed-on blankets, sleep deprivation and other challenges of a house full of ailing children. If he can soldier on, so can I. And at least I get to watch “Monk” while I tend to the kids….