In sickness and in health

The old couple, probably in their late 60's, enter the clinic with a slow, hunched gait. Both have gray hair, wrinkled skin, and false teeth. The wife is the cheerful one. Meanwhile the husband is impatient and irritable, occasionally verbalizing his emotions so loudly the entire world hears it.


She flashes a big smile for us as she puts a heavy plastic bag on the table. The bag contains all her husband's medicines, prescriptions, and laboratory results. They're here for follow-up.

"Umupo ka lang muna diyan. Ako na ang bahala dito [Just sit there first. I'll take care of this]," she says to him, wiping the sweat on his face with a clean towel. She does it like a loving, doting wife. She has been doing this for years now.  They make an interesting pair.

"That's the kind of wife you should be looking for," I tell my classmates beside me.

The man obediently sits on a corner chair. His breathing is short and fast, as if he's running out of breath. We learn that he's only had an hour of sleep last night—that explains the irritability. And when he sleeps, he has to sit down because lying supine on a bed drowns him to death. In our minds, we're almost sure the patient has congested lungs.

He interrupts us once in a while, volunteering short, single-sentence answers to our questions, after which he says, "Hapong-hapo . . . ako. [I'm running out of breath.]"

"Kaya nga huwag ka nang magsalita, eh. Magpahinga ka na lang diyan [That's why you don't have say anything. Just stay there]," the wife tells him. 

Looking at us apologetically, she says, "Hayaan niyo na, ganyan talaga siya [Don't mind him; he's always been like that]."

His condition started with a heart problem some years ago, and it steadily progressed to what it is now. The patient had to quit his job.

The wife tell us her husband's story as if she has felt the pain and discomfort herself. I guess being together for years creates a familiarity so strong the wife knows exactly what the husband is going through—just by looking at him. We commend her for giving a detailed history—something we don't normally get if we don't probe further. 

"Sino pa po ba ang nag-aalaga sa kanya? [Who else is taking care of him?]" we ask. 

"Sino pa ba kundi ako? Minsan mga anak ko, pero ako halos ako palagi. [Who else would, but me? Sometimes my children help out, but I do it all the time."

Eventually the tired, old man falls asleep. The wife looks at him with sympathetic eyes. She rubs his back with slow, gentle strokes. And when he wakes up, his wife of 30 years will be there beside him.

3 thoughts on “In sickness and in health”

  1. Lance! I admire and envy your sweet and concise slice-of-life stories! Based on my readings of late, they are the type of journalistic writing I'd want to work on. My first attempt at that for my blog seemed a little over (http://pinoyjourn.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/fish-talk-over-late-night-cocoa/).

    You do it well!

  2. Aww, it's not much, but I've really been hoping to churn out more stories like that, but i don't always observe em.

    How appropriate were the fishies? Haha. Sayang di ko mamonitor yung replies mo dito.

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