One of the things I find most satisfying about marriage is the opportunity to really get to know another person. All their secret dreams and secret fears, what they like, what they hate. I get a kick out of picking things out for my wife and finding out if it’s what she would have chosen for herself. That’s the kind of exploration that can be truly rewarding in a relationship.

Of course, the learning curve can be a real bitch. My wife was rather spectacularly active in her youth (ultimate frisbee, crew, running, swimming, etc.) and as a result she has destroyed virtually all ligamental support in her ankles. Typically, this just means you need to take care not to fold, spindle or mutilate them at any time. Kid gloves, always.

Mind you, my wife has a tremendous pain threshold. She can take a lot of punishment, it’s just that under the influence of either illness or injury she turns into, well, a bit of a she-demon. I remember the first time I tried to comfort her when she had the flu, before we were married. It was really kind of cute the way she bit my head off when I suggested a particular kind of medication, and then snarled when I tried to cover her with a blanket.

The births of our children were another interesting learning experience, but she actually maintained a tremendous degree of self-control during labor. In fact, after our daughter was born, I regained feeling in my fingers in only a few days.

However, about every year or two, my wife will plant a foot wrong, step off a curb wrong, or step on a loose rock, and twist her ankle. And by ‘twist’ I mean brutally sprain. This has happened so many times that my response has become largely automatic. When my son threw open the back door last night yelling that “Mom fell down!” I had a good idea what to expect, and sprinted out of the garage.

There she was, in a posture I knew well: Flat on her back like a junebug, swearing under her breath. Of course, even after all these years, I can forget what I’m doing, so I reached down to her and–


Whoopsie. How silly of me to forget my basic safety protocols. I carefully stuffed my hands in my pockets, and repeated the only phrase appropriate under the circumstances:

“What Would You Like Me To Do?”

I’m generally safe if I just repeat this phrase until I get some kind of cogent instruction. Hands in pockets, check. I’m standing out of reach, check. It’s not raining very hard, I can stand here for a while.

Then, to my horror, my son moved toward his injured mother. You see, my son has a kind and gentle soul. He saw his mother go down hard, crying out in pain. It rattled him. He wanted to both soothe her, and get some reassurance for himself.

The poor little fool.

He actually stepped between her legs, placing him in terrifyingly close proximity to her injured ankle. My heart skipped a beat, and I quickly swooped down and yanked him out of harm’s way. Thank God. Poor guy, he wasn’t old enough to have learned the cardinal rule of the injured Momma — Do Not Touch.

After a few minutes of this, my wife asked to be pulled into a sitting position. She had, of course, twisted her ankle, but in the process had landed rather heavily on the driveway on her other knee. Ouch. She began giving specific instructions. At last, I could act.

I collected the requested analgesics and medications, while my son got her a bottle of water. I then helped her into the mini-van, so she could take our son to his cub scout meeting. She actually still went to the meeting. While the popular conception is that our daughter got her stubborn streak from me, I can assure you that she inherited a healthy dose from both sides of the family tree.

When she hobbled back afterwards, I installed her on the couch, got her ankle propped up, and fetched her a couple of ice packs. Later on, I got her tucked into bed. This morning before I left for work, I got out her crutches and aircast. Yes, she owns her own pair of crutches and aircast. While I hesitate to call this perfectly normal, it’s utterly unsurprising. We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.

I predict she will be hobbling around for a couple of days. Then slowly, as her ankle recovers, she’ll limp less and less, until she’s fully recovered. It’s all just another routine, just another aspect of my married life. As odd as it sounds, I can’t imagine my life without it, somehow.

Still, I should take an opportunity some time soon to teach my son about when he should keep his hands in his pockets. That kid’s going to get himself killed.