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I stood at the kitchen counter with the aroma of baked chicken and sweet potatoes filling my senses. My husband sat at the dining table looking down at his iPad, poking at it with his new red-rubber-tipped pen that keeps the fingerprints off the screen.
I waited while the broccoli cooked. Green broccoli, orange sweet potatoes, chicken with lots of interesting spices on top. It was going to be a good meal. I decided to add a few baby carrots. Colour is so important.
The minutes clicked by as I stood at the counter waiting for the timer. I absentmindedly started eating the baby carrots, one after the other. Then it happened. A familiar burn started creeping upward. The little valve at the bottom of my esophagus was not doing its job.
Why acid goes “up” is a mystery. Is it not regulated by gravity? Nope. Up it goes.
The medical book says this little trap door relaxes and lets the acid go up into my esophagus. Was I too relaxed? Was I enjoying life too much? Was I really pleased with my supper?
My little valve relaxed, and an uninvited dinner guest started creeping up, burning everything in its path. Heartburn.
I started to hiccup – not in the normal way, but convulsive hiccups huge enough to alert the next-door neighbours.
My husband, without lifting his eyes off the iPad, asked what I was doing. I didn’t reply – I couldn’t. I drank some water. It made matters worse. I choked and sputtered while my husband continued to poke at the screen with his red rubber pen.
I looked over at him. It was as if he was on another planet. It was as if I was not in the kitchen beside him, practically dying.
After what seemed like 10 minutes of this, when I could finally speak, I said “Supper is ready.”
Now, to be a little bit fair to my husband – this doesn’t get him off the hook at all but I will say it anyway – this was not the first time the little valve at the bottom of my esophagus had not worked. It was not the first time I didn’t die from heartburn.
But wouldn’t you think he would at least look up from his iPad? How hard would it be to actually get up and stand by me, looking concerned, or to ask me if there’s anything he could do for me?
What does the iPad have over a choking, dying wife in the kitchen?
I remember a film with Robin Williams playing a grown-up Peter Pan. His wife picked up his phone and threw it out the window. I recall that scene with such fondness. Every day I have fought that urge, imagining the joy that would come while flinging it.
I have begged my husband for a “no technology” zone at dinner time. He is free to browse at breakfast and lunch, but at dinner I want him all to myself.
He hasn’t been able to do it. There is always something he wants to show me, a photo or something in an e-mail or on Facebook. I put my hand out in a stop-sign kind of way and say: “Just tell me about it darling. I don’t need to see it on your iPhone.”
(The iPad gets removed from the table during dinner, but there is still his iPhone strapped to his belt.)
He’ll reluctantly put the phone back in its holder, like a smoker putting a cigarette back in the package.
It was our 40th wedding anniversary last month. My husband and I first met on a ski hill, so we decided to celebrate by going on a ski trip to Banff.
My husband was smiling when he told me what my anniversary present was going to be, other than the trip. All puffed up, he said that he was not going to check his e-mails on our trip.
Something came out of me like a convulsive hiccup. I was trying to suppress my laughter. Sweet, I thought. So sweet for him to say such a thing. My addict husband was going to give up technology for me. I hoped our trip wouldn’t feel like Lent for him.
Off we flew to Banff.
Day 1, good!
Day 2, good!
Day 3, I asked if he was okay. He was going to the bathroom an awful lot.
Day 4, he gave in.
Yes, he was checking his e-mail in the bathroom. Of course I knew that. After all, we have been married for 40 years. We laughed our heads off.
Day 5, we headed home hand in hand.
I didn’t care that he couldn’t quite fulfill his promise. After all, it was a splendid try. I had felt that for five days he was all mine, and not on another planet. For five days, I had beaten the iPad and the iPhone. My heart burned, but this time with love.
Mary White lives in Port Colborne, Ont.